9 October 2018
UN Urges Tackling Waste Management on World Habitat Day
UN Photo/Kibae Park
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World Habitat Day focused on the theme, ‘Municipal Solid Waste’.

The SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the New Urban Agenda all address solid waste management.

UN-Habitat called for society to make a conscious effort to adjust consumption styles, including by fixing broken items, recycling correctly and using alternatives to disposable plastic.

1 October 2018: The UN recognized World Habitat Day with calls for increasing imagination and innovation to address global waste management challenges. The Day focused on the theme, ‘Municipal Solid Waste.’

According to the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 99 percent of purchased items are discarded within six months, and the world produces two billion tonnes of waste annually. On World Habitat Day, UN-Habitat called for society to “make small adjustments to our consumption styles,” such as by making a conscious effort to fix broken items rather than throw them away, recycle correctly and identify and use alternatives to disposable plastic items, including bottles, cups, cutlery and plates.

The SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) all address solid waste management. SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) includes target 11.6, which focuses on reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management issues. SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) includes targets focused on environmentally sound management of all waste through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse (targets 12.4 and 12.5) and reduction of food waste (target 12.3). Under the Paris Agreement, countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) can include action on waste management as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, the NUA commits to “environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste.” UN-Habitat is working to support countries to translate these commitments into practical and sustainable actions at the local level.

The call for action on ‘Waste-Wise Cities’ asks communities, cities and towns around the world to rethink, reduce, recycle, refuse and reuse waste.

In a statement for the Day, UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, stressed that tackling waste management challenges “requires imagination and innovation,” and demands that people “rethink” waste. She observed that effective waste management “starts with us as individuals,” and stressed that, through collective action, the world can become “cleaner, greener, safer, healthier and happier.”

UN-Habitat supports cities to improve their waste management practices through implementing community-based waste management collection and recycling and supporting cities to design cost-effective systems to collect and dispose of garbage. The agency also created the ‘Trash to Art’ project, which invited local artists to “make a statement on sustainability” by creating art using discarded materials.

The global observance of World Habitat Day took place at UN-Habitat headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. In a statement at the event, the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, described solid waste management as “one of the greatest challenges of our time in a rapidly urbanizing world.” He urged every single person to take personal responsibility for managing waste, and called for developing innovative and sustainable solutions to tackle the global solid waste problem.

Also on the Day, UN-Habitat and its partners discussed a call for action on ‘Waste-Wise Cities’ that aims to recognize cities’ efforts to lead effective waste management initiatives. The call for action asks communities, cities and towns around the world to “rethink, reduce, recycle, refuse and reuse waste.” Communities, cities or towns that improve their solid waste management and reduce their waste management expenditure will be publicly recognized as ‘Waste-Wise Cities.’

World Habitat Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday of October to reflect on the state of cities and towns and on the right of all to adequate shelter. [UN News Story] [UN-Habitat Executive Director Statement] [UN-Habitat News Story] [World Habitat Day Website]

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