UN Convention takes action to minimise solid waste generation in urban areas, including household and plastic wastes

As World Habitat Day is marked around the world and attention is focussed on the challenges for improving solid waste management, a UN convention on waste strengthens the partnership approach to develop and disseminate best practices for waste minimisation.

These partnerships have been initiated and facilitated by the Basel Convention,[1] and feature alliances of government, the private sector, local municipalities, civil society and environmental organisations. They identify, develop, and disseminate innovative approaches for solid waste management, targetting some of the most urgent waste streams through the development of technical support to countries for the environmentally sound management of waste.

Central to minimising waste is tackling waste generation at the household level. Household waste – a major challenge especially for developing countries – is particularly difficult since not only is the quantity of waste generated increasing rapidly, but the composition of that waste is also changing rapidly as well. For that reason, the Partnership on Household Waste was initiated in 2017 with a remit to explore and disseminate innovative solutions for the promotion of an integrated approach including avoidance and minimisation of waste at source as well systems for the collection, separation, transport, storage, treatment, processing, recycling and where necessary, final disposal, of household waste. More information on the Partnership on Household Waste is available here:


Electronic waste, or e-waste, is thought to be the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. E-waste is categorised as hazardous to the presence of toxic materials such as lead, mercury, and brominated flame retardants but might also contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel. The threat to human health, when attempting to retrieve these precious materials, is considerable. For that reason, the Partnership on Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) was initiated and to date has implemented pilot projects on environmentally sound management across the world including in Africa, and in central and south America, aimed at building capacity for governments and municipalities, and in the private sector, for handling e-waste in a safe and effective manner. The partnership has also produced technical guidelines, available in all 6 UN languages, for the environmentally sound management of e-waste, available here:


Finally, world attention continues to be focussed on the problems associated with plastic waste, marine litter, and microplastics. A multi-faceted problem which will require multiple solutions, the Basel Convention offers hope for minimising plastic waste generation at source, which led to a decision at a recent experts meeting in Geneva  proposing new Partnership on Plastic Waste under the Basel Convention, designed as an international vehicle for public-private cooperation, sharing of best practices, and technical assistance in the area of at-source measures to minimise and more effectively manage plastic waste, thus helping tackle the global environmental problem of marine plastic litter. More information on minimising plastic waste is available here:


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[1] The Basel  Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and is almost universal, with 186 Parties. For more information, see www.basel.int