City2City
How circular cities protect biodiversity
This article outlines the impacts of urban areas on biodiversity and demonstrates how localizing the circular economy can help cities in preserving and enhancing biodiversity. It also shares best practices from Turku (Finland), Guelph (Canada), and Delhi (India) in prioritizing regenerative processes and primary resources, while eliminating waste and pollutants such as single-use plastics.

How circular cities protect biodiversity

by Marion Guenard | Originally posted on 21 March 2022 on CityTalk - a blog by ICLEI

The linear economic model relies on a continuous process of extraction and processing of natural resources, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of biodiversity loss. This take-make-waste model is contributing to all drivers of biodiversity loss, from land and sea use change, to ecosystem exploitation and to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Addressing biodiversity loss requires transformative action at all levels and across all sectors. Most importantly, it necessitates a systemic shift to a circular economy that safeguards biodiversity. The circular transition involves prioritizing regenerative resources, reducing the demand for primary resources and avoiding the generation of pollution and waste

With urban areas acting as the consumption centers of our world’s resources, local governments play an important role in this transformation. In fact, they are in a unique position to drive, catalyze and enable circular economy interventions in support of biodiversity protection and regeneration. Critically, cities are also dependent on biodiversity for sustaining the social, economic and environmental well-being of their residents which makes it all the more important for them to be at the forefront of the circular transition.

The recently published briefing sheet City-level circular economy interventions to protect and enhance biodiversity outlines the ways in which urban areas are currently impacting biodiversity and demonstrates how localizing the circular economy can help cities to preserve and enhance biodiversity both within and beyond their jurisdiction.

Here are three ways circular cities can help address the biodiversity crisis.

1) Prioritizing regenerative resources and processes

Circular cities prioritize actions that restore and protect ecosystems, promote nature-based solutions and prioritize resources to power circular systems. This ensures the ecosystems urban and economic systems rely on can continue to deliver ecosystem services and that circular systems are resilient and sustainable.

Best practice: Turku´s circular water systems sources water regeneratively 

In 2009, Turku (Finland) joined forces with nine neighboring municipalities to invest in circular water and wastewater management infrastructure that minimize nutrient pollution, deliver heat for district heating purposes and facilitate sludge recovery. Upstream, the municipalities wanted to ensure groundwater reserves would be protected. For this reason, the public company Turku Region Water Ltd. has implemented an innovative groundwater replenishment technique called Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR). This technique recharges an aquifer using either surface or underground recharge techniques and thereby offers a natural means of producing high-quality water and increasing the yields of the aquifer. The MAR method enables the groundwater levels of the aquifer to be restored to their natural levels. Part of the electricity needed in the pretreatment of the river water that is used for infiltration is produced by 1,350 solar panels.

2) Decreasing demand for primary resources 

About 75 percent of the world’s natural resource consumption takes place in cities and almost 80 percent of all food is consumed by urban residents. Between 2010 and 2050, cities’ material consumption is projected to more than double from 40 to 90 billion tonnes.

Circular cities reduce demand for primary resources by using what already exists, circulating products and materials for as long and at the highest value as possible, and designing consumption- and production models for resource efficiency. These principles can be applied to a variety of resource and materials flows.

Best practice: Guelph supports greywater use and rainwater harvesting at household level

The city of Guelph is one of the largest cities in Canada to rely primarily on groundwater for its water supply. For this reason, the city has long sought to conserve water through diverse initiatives. One of these initiatives is a rebates program to support the installation of greywater reuse and rainwater harvesting systems, which reduce demand on the groundwater supply by allowing homes and businesses to use water that would otherwise enter sewage or stormwater systems. The 35 households participating in this system have allowed Guelph to reduce its water consumption by 962,350 liters yearly and reduce its CO2 emissions by 490 kg per year.

3) Eliminating waste and pollutants

Urban areas generate half of the global waste with municipal waste levels expected to double by 2050. Where waste is not handled properly, it risks undermining biodiversity and ecosystem health, whether due to littering, runoff or landfills leaking pollutants into the natural environment. It is, for example, estimated that urban areas are responsible for 60 percent of marine plastic litter causing detrimental impacts to coastal and marine biodiversity

Circular cities eliminate waste and pollution by improving design and/or ensuring waste streams are safely revitalized, thereby making sure waste and pollution do not materialize in the production and consumption cycle. This can be done through a variety of city-level measures such as incentivizing the design of production methods that minimize waste, regulating the consumption of disposable items or investing in closed-loop infrastructure.

Best practice: Phasing out single-use plastics in Delhi

A massive 60 percent of the plastic waste in the oceans is estimated to come from India. In Delhi, the open burning of plastic waste is causing major health and environmental challenges. The Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi adopted the “Comprehensive Action Plan for Elimination of Identified Single-Use Plastic” in December 2021. The Action Plan organizes a three-step phase-out of single-use plastic such as bags, cutlery, films, banners and wrappers, which is set to be completed by the end of 2022. In addition, incentives for the uptake of single-use plastics alternatives and a scheme for the promotion of high-value plastics recycling technologies will be implemented.

To support a shift to consumption and production patterns that work with rather than against nature, cities need to combine the principles outlined above to address impacts all along the take-make-waste model. This is a challenging task that can only succeed if cities learn from and build on each other’s successes. Access ICLEI´s briefing sheet City-level circular economy interventions to protect and enhance biodiversity for practical examples of how this can be done in practice or watch the recordings of our webinar Localizing biodiversity through the circular economy to learn more about best practices from the ICLEI network.

Retrieved from https://talkofthecities.iclei.org/how-circular-cities-protect-biodiversity/

Ve Chai: Waste Pickers in Da Nang (Innovation Type: Community Organized)

In partnership with Evergreen Labs, a social enterprise working with ve chai on research and upcycling efforts, the Accelerator Lab embarked onefforts to map the waste sector. A Collective Intelligence approach made use of a combination of GPS route tracking efforts and field interviewswith ve chai. Volunteers were tasked to follow ve chai on their daily routes, tracking their stops, activities, and engagements with other actorseither via a GPS device, or by tracing them manually on a physical map. This data helped reveal the entrepreneurial nature of ve chai, most of themworking as individuals to build their own business contacts and networks (whether with household waste providers or waste aggregators). A totalof 221 waste collection points were identified in the study area, and by visualising this data on a GIS platform, UNDP Vietnam was able todemonstrate how well-distributed waste collection services by ve chai were, covering more than 80% of the city’s geographical area. It wasdiscovered that ve chai collect a collect a significant 4.3%-7.5% of the total solid waste generated in the city – when estimates of total recyclingrates in the city were at 8%. 

VE CHAI: WASTE PICKERS IN DA NANG

Innovation Type: Community Organized

Urban challenge

Da Nang is a thriving urban hub in Vietnam, known for its flourishing tourism, business, and culture. But with a growing urban population, wasteproduction is rocketing, and the absence of a municipal recycling framework leaves most of Da Nang’s waste en route to landfills, or intowaterways and the environment. Seeing the potential for value creation along the waste cycle, informal waste workers or ve chai have emerged,buying waste from households and scavenging for recyclables from streets. By trading these materials with end-buyers (often factories orrecyclers), ve chai have found a flexible source of income whilst contributing to a robust informal recycling system. However, despite plugging acrucial gap in waste management and recycling, ve chai are not formally recognized by the state, owing to their informal and often misunderstoodline of work – excluding them from official safety nets in times of crisis.

Innovation process

Whilst examining the problem of waste management and pollution in Da Nang, the UNDP Vietnam Accelerator Lab recognised the role of ve chai inthe local informal waste network. The Lab’s initial efforts, for instance in introducing new recycling bins, were met with discontent from ve chai.Given the lack of substantive research on waste in Da Nang, the Lab decided they required a firsthand understanding of local waste collectiondynamics to better inform a solution. The Lab’s work with innovation research and networks with other Labs made available a host ofmethodologies to consider. This included a Collective Intelligence approach first popularized by Dietmar Offenhuber, who used it precisely to mapthe informal waste sector earlier in Brazil. This led to the idea of a similar waste mapping exercise in Da Nang: one that better uncovered local vechai’s motivations and role(s). 

Solution

Continuity

This initial mapping exercise helped establish that there were an estimated 1,000-1,800 informal waste collectors working in Da Nang. Being ableto demonstrate this on a GIS platform, alongside their estimated contributions to recycling rates, diverted the government’s initial plans toprovide citizens with recycling bins, which would adversely affect ve chai and disrupt existing successes in recycling via ve chai’s efforts. Thisstudy has contributed to wider efforts by UNDP Vietnam to embark on Circular Economy efforts in the country, which have hence seen greatervisibility in the policy space. These efforts have also attracted international support, such as support from the Government of Norway in equippingve chai with occupational health gear. 

Key takeaways

  • Experimentation and system-thinking approaches open new possibilities to examine how existing resources can bereorganised to solve urban problems. The success of this project is the audacity of the local team to recognise, integrate andfurther explore the presence and potential of valuable local expertise, and explore beyond the framework of the solution thatwas initially piloted. Policy-makers need to be open to integrate this collective intelligence already on the ground: local effortscould be revolutionary if formally recognised as part of municipal assets and processes. 
  • Solving the waste crisis in Da Nang didn’t stop with a single solution, and the mapping exercise contribute to the efforts torecognise and improve the working conditions of the informal sector. The informal waste collection network was fraughtwith issues of its own – inequality within the community, health concerns, labour practices, and polluting technologies (used toprocess recyclables) that also need to be considered in future interventions.
  • Use of local networks, expertise and technology to better understand the problem and the potential solution. The projectleaders relied on a local company with existing knowledge and links with the informal waste sector in Vietnam. Simpletechnology (mobile GPS, and sometimes paper records) were used to monitor the movement and waste collection trends. 

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

Community Waste 'Map-Athons' (Innovation Type: Community Organized)
With favourable reception to this idea from the City Council, the Accelerator Lab and OpenMap set forth together to begin a pilot mapping exercise for existing waste management infrastructure - a crucial first step in identifying pain/pressure points in the waste network, and charting the demand and supply of waste infrastructure. Inspired by the Collective Intelligence approach, the team enlisted the assistance of student volunteers and local government officials to explore the town on foot and manually map waste infrastructure onto the crowdsourced map database using their smartphones. In a span of 2 weeks, volunteers remotely labelled 26,000 physical features and developed 20 different map layers relevant to waste infrastructure, including trash sites, buildings, roads, and waterways. OpenMap Development verified the resulting datasets, and members of the community were engaged in data validation exercises to ensure the accuracy of the data – going on recce visits to areas to compare with the produced maps.

Community Waste 'Map-Athons' 

Innovation Type: Community Organized

Urban Challenge

Mwanza is Tanzania's second-largest city, and one of sub-Saharan Africa's fastest developing urban centers. The city produces over 357 tonnes of garbage daily, 70% of which is organic waste. The Buhongwa ward in Mwanza is a new, unplanned, semi-urban town – home to both the largest vegetable market in the region, but also the region's only landfill. With an overwhelmed waste management system, illegal dumpling and improper waste disposal have become rampant. The streets of Buhongwa are littered with much of the town's organic and inorganic waste. Whilst communities have benefitted from the informal waste picking economy to earn a living, the waste situation presents these same communities with dire health hazards. Furthermore, the unplanned and informal nature of most settlements in Mwanza contribute to unmapped waste maps and an incomplete waste management framework.

Innovation Process

In 2020, the Mwanza City Council announced plans to expand its modern waste management services to the ward of Buhongwa. This presented a timely opportunity for the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Tanzania, who had been seeking new partnerships to support in both technical and non-technical capacities; furthermore, solid waste management had been identified by the Lab as one of Tanzania's priority challenges to tackle. In addition, the Lab had recently met members of the local team from OpenMap Development during the yearly Innovation Week Tanzania event, and had been inspired by their work in open-source mapping for humanitarian causes. The OpenMap team were invited by the Accelerator Lab to attend a UNDP-Nesta Collective Intelligence workshop, which increased their capacity for community data collection and participatory design. With the Lab eventually contracting the team to assist with an ongoing infrastructure mapping exercise in Dar Es Salaam, the idea for a similar project in the context of waste infrastructure soon emerged amongst members of the Buhongwa team.

Solution

Continuity

Together, these data collection efforts culminated in a rich database that revealed the existence of new buildings that had not been previously mapped or registered by the government. The City Council is now using this information to add waste collection points in previously unserved and unmapped informal settlements. This project has also had ripple effects in the national government's overall approach to data, with the National Bureau of Statistics more open to legitimising such novel sources of data (i.e. from bottom-up). Following the mapping exercise, the City Council has also begun a bidding contract for the introduction of new waste collection service providers in Buhongwa, and increased financial support for recycling firms. The generated maps have also seen utility outside of the realm of waste, informing tax-related policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Frequent and meaningful dialogue between the different stakeholders, especially between local authorities and national authorities, made possible agreements on common standards. This substantially increased the usability and impact of the data collected for both levels of government, and facilitated the scaling up of this initiative – and its permeation into national level debates on data, and in other policy areas (e.g. tax).
  • Engaging youth in the data collection process had strong mutual benefits to all parties, as the students were able to network with actors in the government and in civil society – and receive training on the use of key digital tools. Such youth engagement efforts build the digital skills of young generations, and could foster further interest in a STEM career - whilst the city is rejuvenated via the participatory design and digital talent of its own young people.
  • Data 'share-back' exercises engage the target community, ensuring the collected data is valid and relevant, and that it goes back to improve their lives in concrete ways. Their feedback on the produced maps were not optional, but key to the cartographic process – community members' lived experiences are often able to add nuance to certain mapping decisions, and explain certain physical features or findings not immediately obvious. With this valuable information, the city will be able to better plan for waste infrastructure and manpower, whilst remaining sensitive of the need to continue to provide informal waste pickers with a strong source of income – and upskilling opportunities in the new waste network.

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

Eastgate Centre: Green Architecture (Innovation Type: Enterprise Venture)
The Eastgate Centre is the first building in the world to mimic termite architecture, using the same techniques to develop a self-cooling system. The Centre is a 9-story biomimetic mixed-use building, designed to exploit energy-efficient and passive climate control mechanisms. The architects used construction materials with a high thermal capacity, enabling the storage and release of heat gained from the surrounding environment. The Centre comprises two reinforced concrete building masses connected with a glass-roofed central atrium; the building's ventilation system redirects hot interior air outward through the brick chimney stacks on top. Smaller vents branch out from the center cores, drawing cool air into the building, while fans are operated on cycled timings to facilitate air movement. The exterior design incorporates balconies and planters built with Zimbabwean bricks and concrete, so as to increase surface temperature. The concrete balconies in particular minimize total heat in the building by limiting the amount of natural light in the interior.

Eastgate Centre: Green Architecture

Innovation Type: Enterprise Venture

Urban Challenge

Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, enjoys a rare tropical high-altitude climate. In 8 months of a year, the city enjoys warm and dry weather conditions, with increasing heat and humidity over the next four months. Warm sunny day climates required buildings to be cooled all year round, albeit cooling nights and pleasant temperatures in the winter. Economically, the use of heating, ventilation, and cooling systems (HVAC) had to often be ruled out due to its high costs, lack of skilled labor for service and maintenance, and frequent power outages in the city. In 1991, with the rapid development of Harare, a challenge arose to build the city's largest mixed-use office-retail space in the country – one that did not suffer from hefty heating and cooling bills, and instead relied on self-regulation to sustain comfortable temperatures.

Innovation process

Mike Pearce, the project's lead architect, was first approached by an investment group in Harare to design the mixed-use building. Given their conditions for a low-maintenance temperature regulation solution, Pearce caught his eventual inspiration from his beliefs in tropical architecture. He was inspired by the mound-building termites of southern Africa, and how they built towers that were metres high - and served as 'climate' control infrastructure for their colonies. The developer understood the need to design a building with appropriate technological and environmental control, suited to the local climate and economy. He further reasoned that the same architectural principles of the termite mounds could inspire structures which perform equally well. The history, urban context, climate, and available materials in Harare were some of the considerations taken whilst designing Eastgate. After being first commissioned in March 1991, the building was designed and planned from April 1991 to December 1992 (20 months), and constructed between January 1993 to April 1996 (39 months); occupancy began in April 1996.

Solution

Impact

The Eastgate Centre is more energy-saving in comparison to similar-sized buildings. It consumes less than 10% more energy than other buildings, saving electricity costs and maintaining a comfortable temperature internally. These savings have made rents less expensive in the Center than nearby buildings. The project has been included in several academic papers and has won several global awards. At the moment, there are no plans to replicate the exact design anywhere - although the Portcullis House in London takes distinct inspiration from Harare's chimney system.

Key Takeaways

  • Biomimicry or nature-inspired solutions are a viable and cost-effective method to solve or overcome challenges presented by the urban environment.
  • Solutions can be inspired by nature but do not have to be beholden to them. The Eastgate Centre does not exactly replicate the inner workings of a termite mound - however, the building takes reference from it using the principles of heat exchange and fractal cooling. As Pearce put it, the Eastgate project did not seek to copy forms, but rather the process that made the form.
  • Leveraging the expertise of the private sector enabled the accomplishment of this technically complex project. In particular, Arup provided experienced structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as support in modelling building performance.

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

Biogas: From Waste to Energy (Innovation Type: Tech-Driven Institutional Pioneer)
The proposed incinerator runs on biogas produced by biowaste – ensuring that toxic healthcare waste is safely disposed of (instead of exposed in landfills), leveraging the sheer volume of waste generated by the municipality to power its own electricity grid, and producing liquid organic fertilizer as a second byproduct. As the Municipal Council had no prior experience with biogas, UNDP Sri Lanka and the Kaduwela Municipal Council piloted a first plant to test its feasibility. The pilot plant was completed in 2019, and was capable of processing 10 tonnes of solid biodegradable waste.

Biogas: From Waste to Energy

Innovation Type: Tech-Driven Institutional Pioneer

Urban Challenge

Kaduwela Municipal Council, the largest in Sri Lanka, receives more than 50 tonnes of waste per day. A 2019 National Audit Report on Healthcare Waste Management (HCWM) revealed that there were no set protocols on the responsible disposal of healthcare waste in particular – with 70% of hospitals surveyed failing to comply with HCWM standards. Furthermore, COVID-19 exacerbated shortcomings in HCWM, as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other apparatuses with toxic byproducts rocketed in use. Healthcare waste is often biohazardous, posing a greater danger compared to regular waste. Health care activities lead to the production of infectious, sharp, chemical, and radioactive byproducts, which could lead to adverse health effects if not disposed of safely. However, without specialised final disposal solutions for healthcare facilities and private practitioners in Kaduwela, healthcare waste ended up in the municipal waste stream – and eventually, landfills. Though waste collection was a major source of income for surrounding communities, the constant exposure to toxic waste posed a grave longterm health risk. At the same time, it was imperative that solutions for waste management addressed not only safe disposal, but also continued to provide lower-income communities involved in waste collection with new avenues for income generation.

Solution

Innovation process

The issue first came to the attention of UNDP Sri Lanka, where the Technical Coordinator had been well acquainted with biomass energy from his past experiences with technical projects. With this background, UNDP Sri Lanka approached the Kaduwela Municipal Council with a proposal for an innovative biogas incinerator, that would process biowaste while generating electricity. A network of technical expertise and experience was hence pivotal to the emergence of a solution for healthcare waste in Kaduwela, in this case initiated by UNDP Sri Lanka but operationalized by a state institution – the Municipal Council.

Continuity

With increased confidence in biogas incineration, the government has requested for a second plant with increased processing capacity to serve the area, especially given the rise in population density in neighbouring Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte – the new administrative capital of Sri Lanka. As such, a second plant capable of processing 20 metric tonnes (double the initial plant) is currently in construction, and will be funded 80% by Kaduwela Municipal Council. Its replication potential is being assessed in 10 other municipal governments, and for future projects, UNDP will hand over ownership of the project to their respective councils, serving a primarily advisory role. In the meantime, UNDP is also embarking on a new National Action Plan for HCWM, based on the results of the Rapid Assessment in 2021.

Key Takeaways

  • Decisive support from the authorities were pivotal to the initiation and operationalisation of this project. Without the support of the local government, piloting large-scale, innovative, and potentially risky investments may not be possible, however great their potential for success may be.
  • The project was especially successful because the local authorities recognized its business potential. The ability of any initiative to generate revenue assures governments that it is a worthwhile investment, that it makes ingenious and innovative use of resources, that it is sustainable, and that it may even generate additional income for the government to channel into improving other public services in this area.
  • Pilot programmes are valuable for this reason; proposals are most effective when a new technology or solution is well-demonstrated, at however small a scale. In this case, a smaller, 10-tonne plant was enough in demonstrating the success of the technology in not only tackling biowaste, but also generating electricity and income for the local community.
  • A host of technical and personal networks were crucial to the development of this project. The very idea of biogas was brought to attention only because of technical experts having explored similar urban challenges and innovative solutions in the past, while the necessary data, capital, andresources were only made available through trusted partnerships between the Municipal Council, state agencies involved with energy and waste, and UNDP.

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

System Change: A Guidebook for Adopting Portfolio Approaches
This guidebook presents an approach to help a broad range of development practitioners prepare for, engage in, and manage systems transformation using a portfolio approach in complex development spaces, while capturing lessons from UNDP’s support towards circularity in cities such as Rahim Yar Khan in Pakistan, Pasig City in the Philippines, and Da Nang in Viet Nam, and youth employment in Bhutan.

System Change: A Guidebook for Adopting Portfolio Approaches

by UNDP | Originally posted on 28 March 2022

The guidebook formalizes processes and learnings, and leverages these to support others as they initially contemplate—and eventually work towards implementation of a portfolio-based approach for addressing complex development challenges in their own context. It captures the on-the-ground applied learning from a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored project throughout Asia-Pacific from October 2019 to September 2021.

Access the full guidebook here: https://www.undp.org/publications/system-change-guidebook-adopting-portfolio-approaches

or download the attached PDF of the guidebook.

Transitioning To A Circular Economy Through Chemical and Waste Management
This publication describes UNDP's interventions on Chemicals and Waste Management, through a robust life cycle management approach, to achieve a circular economy that eliminates waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use and regenerates natural systems in lieu of the challenges of rapid urbanization, industrialization, use of plastics, construction, and infrastructure development.

Transitioning To A Circular Economy Through Chemical and Waste Management

by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) | Originally posted on 10 March 2022

With thousands of industrial chemicals being marketed worldwide, and new chemicals becoming more complex, it is increasingly clear that a robust life cycle management system for chemicals and waste and a systematic approach towards a circular economy is required.  A circular economy eliminates waste and pollution, keeps products and materials in use and regenerates natural systems.

Access the full publication here: https://www.undp.org/publications/transitioning-circular-economy-through-chemical-and-waste-management

or download the attached PDF of the publication.

Building Forward Together: Towards an inclusive and resilient Asia and the Pacific
After two years of COVID-19, this report examines the implications of the pandemic in the Asia-Pacific region for attaining the SDGs, and countries’ responses to pandemic-induced shocks and rising social and economic stresses. It provides strong examples of urban initiatives in the region that are building forward better for a long-term recovery and an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future.

Building Forward Together: Towards an inclusive and resilient Asia and the Pacific

Originally posted by UNDP on 28 March 2022

This report, by UNDP, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and Asian Development Bank, considers how countries have been responding to this complex and still evolving pandemic, and highlights key elements of a forward-looking policy agenda aimed at putting countries on a path to longer-term recovery that is inclusive, resilient and aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It expands on themes of inequality and systemic vulnerabilities discussed in the 2021 SDG Partnership Report: Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving no country behind.

Access the full report here: https://www.undp.org/publications/building-forward-together-towards-inclusive-and-resilient-asia-and-pacific

or download the attached PDF of the report.

A Focus on Informal Solid Waste Collectors in Haiti: Key players but Neglected Actors
UNDP Haiti's Innovation Acceleration Lab wishes to highlight the important work of these hard-working individuals in the hopes of encouraging governmental and non-governmental actors to support them, improve their positioning, and bring about a change in society's view of their contribution to the solid waste management system in Haiti.

A Focus on Informal Solid Waste Collectors in Haiti: Key players but Neglected Actors

by Mickens Mathieu, UNDP Haiti AccLab Head of Exploration | Originally published by UNDP on 17 March 2022

An informal collector in Saint Fort Saint Michel, Cap-Haitien. Photo: UNDP Haiti/Mathieu Fritzner

Under the law of September 21, 2017[1], the National Solid Waste Management Service (SNGRS) shares with the Local Authorities (Town Hall, CASEC, ASEC) the mission to collect, sort and transform solid waste throughout the national territory. However, these state agencies do not have sufficient human, material and financial resources to fulfill their mission. In slums, generally inhabited by low-income households, their presence is barely felt. Therefore is it not relevant to ask how solid waste is managed and disposed of in areas not covered by the SNGRS and the municipalities? In other words, who is playing their role or doing the work they are supposed to do in these areas? And under what conditions?

In urban areas not covered by SNGRS and municipalities, the garbage collection service is largely provided by informal collectors offering a low-cost service accessible to a large proportion of households as well as to formal and informal businesses. As a result, they are becoming an increasingly important part of the community of actors in the solid waste collection, treatment and recovery system in Haiti.

However, the contributions of informal collectors in improving the living environment, protecting the environment and reducing unemployment are not always recognized and duly valued. On the contrary, these collectors constitute a group of actors who are strongly affected by the negative consequences of poverty, prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion.

In this perspective, the laboratory has already carried out a mapping of solutions in the North and North-East departments of Haiti in November 2021. This fieldwork allowed us to meet and discuss with informal solid waste collectors working collectively or individually in the urban areas of these departments. These discussions made it possible to better understand their activities, their objectives, their contributions, their constraints and their opportunities. The information collected also allowed for a better understanding of the potential support to be implemented in order to strengthen their work in the North and Northeast departments and possibly throughout the country.

Understanding the usefulness of these multi-purpose actors: from direct collection from households to purchase, storage and wholesale resale

It is very difficult to accurately profile informal solid waste collectors, given the diversity of their activities, their spaces, and their intervention models, including their objectives, performance levels, and relationships with waste generators and recovery companies.

With regard to their main activities, pre-collection or direct collection is operated from producers of recoverable and non-recoverable waste, such as households, institutions, companies (restaurants, hotels), public markets, among others. In this way, the initiatives of informal collectors play a relay role between the producers and the intermediate or final dumping areas, controlled or not controlled by the municipalities.

The activities of informal collectors also include the recovery or purchase of recoverable waste (defective objects that can be recycled, repaired or reused) from households, streets, public markets and landfill sites. In direct connection with this last activity are the wholesale collectors who have small networks of collectors (individual or group) who supply them with recoverable waste, especially plastic, metal and organic waste, in return for remuneration based on the volume bought. There are other categories of informal collectors in Haitian urban areas, but they are not taken into account in the context of the present description. The organizational model set up by the wholesale collectors is at a very rudimentary level, although somewhat more advanced compared to other informal waste collectors. In this way, this may provide a good basis for initiatives to strengthen informal collectors into cooperatives, for example.

As indicated by the title, all of these activities are carried out in a totally informal context. Indeed, they develop outside of all forms of taxation, recognition and regulation by the public authorities. In addition, they are small in size, low in productivity and financial profitability. The people who enter this field of activity are of low socio-economic level and rarely reach the secondary level of schooling.

Informal collectors are poorly equipped with appropriate tools and materials that allow them to carry out their activities in the best physical and sanitary conditions. A very small proportion have motorized equipment. Most waste collection is done by hand or with rudimentary tools. The collectors hardly wear boots, gloves, or nose covers, even though they work in a dangerous and infectious environment. Moreover, they are not covered by any form of social protection. Understandably, they are vulnerable and marginalized socially and economically.

These elements suggest the need to support them given the specificity of their activities and their areas of intervention. This support can include the acquisition of tools, motorized equipment, training guides or manuals, social protection measures and other support necessary to carry out their activities. It is desirable that the costs of acquisition, renewal and maintenance of these tools and materials be low or financially accessible. All of this support will have a direct impact on waste collection, improving the living conditions of collectors and the environmental conditions in which the country's urban populations live.

A profession in search of recognition and social and economic value

The work and contribution of informal collectors is not always recognized and valued by public authorities and local populations in general. However, they play a very important role in the local collection of waste, often conducted door-to-door, in exchange for a fee based on the volume of waste collected. The presence of informal collectors is increasingly important in marginalized urban areas (or slums) characterized by high densification, poor accessibility to four-wheel vehicles, and a weak presence of municipal solid waste collection services. It must be said that for some time now, the emergence of pockets of insecurity in the working-class neighborhoods of the capital and of the countryside has considerably reduced the activities of informal collectors.

The waste collected by informal collectors can go in several directions: municipal dump trucks, specific collection points (illegal dumping) found in public markets or roads, ravines, banks, beaches, storage areas for recyclable waste, among others. This reality describes all the paradox that the activities of solid waste collectors carry, which can be described under certain conditions as a zero-sum game with regard to their negative effects on the environment and the living environment of the population. This same paradox implies that the impacts of the work of informal collectors would be much higher if the other upstream and downstream actors  of the chain were to do their work properly. In this way, the collectors will find it easier to dispose of their recoverable waste in specialized companies and non-recoverable waste in places reserved for this purpose. 

Promoting the activities of informal collectors also involves the implementation of initiatives ensuring their organization, structuring, training and professionalization. Also, informal collectors can be encouraged to formalize and obtain legal recognition and social utility from the municipalities. It would also be relevant to promote better partnership relations between these collectors and municipalities alongside waste recycling companies, especially those working in the plastic, metal and organic sectors. It is undeniable that recycling companies greatly need informal collectors to obtain the inputs essential to the production of goods sold in  national and international markets. We can also think of helping them gain access to microfinance, to ensure the growth, the balance and the financial self-sufficiency of their activities.

[1] http://ciat.bach.anaphore.org/file/misc/366_20170809.pdf

Retrieved from https://www.ht.undp.org/content/haiti/fr/home/blog/2022/a-focus-on-informal-solid-waste-collectors-in-haiti--key-players.html

Crowdmapping Skopje’s drinking fountains for sustainable water management

Crowdmapping Skopje’s drinking fountains for sustainable water management

Originally published by UNDP on 22 Mar

ch 2022

Authors:

World Water Day

Both too much and too little water is a disaster. As populations grow and global temperatures rise, we must accelerate our efforts to manage this vital resource responsibly so that we can build communities that are resilient to both disasterous floods and water scarcity.

On the 22nd of March, World Water Day, we remind ourselves that we need to continue raising awareness and inspiring action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. The challenge of water and sanitation is global, and of course our communities and cities are facing these issues as well. In our local context, preserving and conserving drinking water resources, reducing the use of plastic, and ensuring that citizens have access to public spaces that allow residents to interact and thrive with others in their community, particularly during the increasingly warm summers, are some of the challenges Skopje’s neighborhoods are facing.

From village wells to city drinking fountains, sources of water have always been community gathering places. In a city rich with fresh groundwater like Skopje, public drinking fountains are a relatively common sight and sometimes of the free-flowing variety that allows drinking water to be wasted. As urban populations increase and put more pressure on water resources, we must take care to manage these resources sustainably so that they do not become a luxury.

Crowdmapping Skopje’s public drinking fountains

To help lay the foundation for the development of a more sustainable network of public drinking fountains, and to encourage residents to use them (responsibly), the UNDP North Macedonia office started a very simple crowdmapping challenge for our colleagues: We set out to geotag, photograph and map as many of Skopje’s public drinking fountains as we could. Using our smartphones, we used every walk and bike ride in our neighborhoods as an opportunity to hunt for more drinking fountains to add to our interactive map – all done after hours by the dedicated colleagues that make up our so-called “Water Team”. After filling the map with many data points during the month of March, ahead of Skopje’s hot summer months, we are now ready to share it with the public and invite others to contribute to this collective effort.

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Once we have most of Skopje’s fountains on our map, we will validate the data with the relevant national institutions and fill in any missing data points.

By giving our fellow citizens an easy way to find the nearest fountain where they can refill their reusable bottles, we hope to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles that only create needless plastic waste. We also hope to stir up a conversation about the design of the public drinking fountains by talking about which designs contribute to water preservation, which one are most accessible to humans and animals of all shapes and sizes, and which ones are easiest to use with reusable bottles.

As the mapping process includes a photo of each fountain, we are also compiling a database of the types of fountains that we have in the city, their design, as well as the mechanisms they are using to control the water flow. This data could potentially be useful for our institutions and companies in making more efficient and user-friendly designs for delivering this important public resource. 

We want YOU to join our Water Team!

After close to a month of mapping work all over the city by our Water Team, we decided it was time to share the map of Skopje’s drinking fountains with the public. 

Though the map already has many data points, we realize that many of Skopje’s drinking fountains are still missing. We hope to correct this by opening the map to contributions from all interested Skopje residents. If you would like to join the crowdmapping process, all you need to do is follow these four simple steps:

  1. Take a photo of a public drinking fountain.
  2. Tag its location.
  3. Fill out this short form.
  4. We will validate the data point and add it to the interactive map.

For any questions on how to participate, you can contact our UNDP Water Team by emailing lazar.popivanov@undp.org.

Together, we can help create a sustainable future of Skopje’s public drinking water! 

Retrieved from https://www.mk.undp.org/content/north-macedonia/en/home/blog/Crowdmapping-Skopjes-drinking-fountains.html