Organic waste buyback as a viable method to enhance sustainable municipal solid waste management in developing countries

Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Jay N. Meegoda, Sohyeon Ryu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Many developing countries have inadequate Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management systems due to lack of not only the awareness, technologies, finances, but also a proper governance that is able to enforce and monitor the regulations. Not all the solutions practiced by and in developed countries fit to the developing country contexts. The local conditions and limitations must always be taken into account when proposing waste management options for developing countries. The excessively high organic waste fraction in MSW and relatively inexpensive labor markets available in developing countries are two of the strengths that have not yet been utilized fully. This manuscript is an attempt to point out the benefits we receive from the above two strengths if we establish organic waste buyback programs. This can only become successful if we find solutions to: (1) collect source-separated organic waste, and then (2) find stable markets for the products made from organic waste. Compost or biogas could be the best bet developing countries can consider as products. However, there must be some policy interventions to support buyback programs at the waste collection stage as well as at the product marketing stage. Implementation of such organic waste buyback centers that can offer some incentives can indirectly motivate residents to do source separation. This will in turn also help promote more recycling, as any waste bin that has no organics in it is much easier for anyone (e.g., waste pickers) to look for other recyclables. Developing country settings such as the Green Container composting program in Cajicá, Colombia, and buyback centers in South Africa that are presented later in the manuscript are thought to be the places where the concept can be implemented with little effort. The environment, economy, and society are considered to be the three dimensions (or pillars) of sustainability. Interestingly, the organic waste buyback centers solution has positive implications on all three aspects of sustainability. Thus, it also supports the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations (UN), by making specific contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as zero hunger (SDG 2), affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), climate action (SDG 13), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), and sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2483
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 7 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Biogas
  • Buyback programs
  • Cajicá municipality in Colombia
  • Compost
  • Developing countries
  • Informal sector
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Organic waste
  • Source separation
  • South Africa
  • Sustainable development goals (SDGs)


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