From waste to a circular economy

Waste is a potential source of raw materials; one that is becoming increasingly important given the global scarcity of resources. However, if it is not dealt with properly, waste can pose a risk to the environment and to human health. Germany supports its partner countries with regard to avoiding, collecting, recycling and disposing of waste in an ecologically, socially and economically responsible manner.

Recycling centre in Egypt

Waste volumes are growing rapidly worldwide. And yet some two billion people still have no access to regular waste collection services. Waste is often left by the roadside, is dumped into rivers and on uncontrolled landfill sites, or is burned in backyards with no thought given to proper handling. The consequences of this are polluted air, water and soil – which then cause health risks, lead to harmful greenhouse gases being emitted and endanger biological diversity.

One aim of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – and German development cooperation – is to ensure that all waste management complies with environmental standards. Waste volumes are to be reduced as far as possible by avoiding waste, reusing and recycling. Towns and cities in particular are called to reduce their environmental footprint by improving their waste management. Marine pollution caused by mainland waste also needs to be significantly reduced.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports its partner institutions in their efforts to draw up strategies, draft legal regulations and establish relevant structures. It also promotes the training and development of skilled workers and executive staff. Furthermore, the BMZ makes funding instruments available for the construction of recycling and disposal facilities.

So as to be able to make use of the opportunities available for improving waste management and moving towards a circular economy, the BMZ supports partnerships with the private sector (PPPs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international initiatives. The Ministry takes care to ensure that the people who work as waste collectors in its partner countries are involved in the cooperation projects and that their working and living conditions are improved.

Female worker in a recycling company in Colombia

Urban waste management

In some countries in Africa and Asia the volume of waste produced in urban centres is set to double over the next 15 to 20 years. Unless integrated strategies are adopted for the collection, recycling and disposal of waste, dealing with these mountains of waste will be a difficult task. more

Plastic litter on a beach in Sri Lanka

Marine litter

Millions of tonnes of plastic find their way into the world’s oceans each year. This has considerable consequences for marine ecosystems, the fishing industry, tourism and human health. Marine litter is primarily the result of a lack of proper land-based waste management. more

Electronic waste

Electronic waste

The number of personal computers, televisions, mobile phones, refrigerators and other electrical and electronic appliances being bought and discarded worldwide is increasing rapidly. In developing countries, electronic waste is often processed under conditions which are extremely harmful to human health and to the environment. more

Biogas plant

Waste and climate change

Improvements urgently need to be made in the waste industry if the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement are to be achieved. According to estimates, better waste management would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by between 10 and 15 per cent. more

The Sustainable Development Goals

Waste in the 2030 Agenda

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes goals relating to waste management and a circular economy. more

A boy in Indonesia is using an old football as a cap.

Further information

Follow this link for a selection of websites and documents with further information on waste management and a circular economy. more

BMZ glossary

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