A recent IoU study has shed light on the critical issue of waste management in Pakistan, particularly in the capital city of Islamabad. The research indicates that over 1,000 tonnes of waste are generated daily in Islamabad, with a significant portion being improperly disposed of through burning or open dumping in streams, green areas, and parks.
IoU Study on Waste in Islamabad
According to the study, an average person generates between 0.4 to 1.4 kg of waste per day, with 60% of household waste and 90% of office waste being recyclable by volume. In response to these findings, the IoU, in collaboration with Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS), organized a panel discussion on ‘Circular Economy in Pakistan: The Untapped Potential of Waste to Resource’ during the Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s 26th annual sustainable development conference.
The speakers at the discussion emphasized the need for a transition from a linear economy to a circular one, exploring the challenges and opportunities surrounding waste management in Pakistan. Mehrunisa Malik of Saaf Suthra Sheher discussed business challenges and opportunities, while Farah Rashid, sustainability lead at Engro Foundation, highlighted the importance of resource efficiency and support for SMEs.
Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti, research director at NCCR, provided insights into successful circular economy cases in South Asia, and Li Stephanie Choo from ESCAP explored global trends. Dr Ali Malik, deputy secretary in the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, stressed the vital role of youth in addressing waste management challenges.
Ayesha Majid, senior program coordinator at the Institute of Urbanism, presented research findings on waste as a resource, revealing disparities in waste segregation practices in Islamabad and Lahore. The report, titled “Waste as Resource: Case Study of Lahore and Islamabad,” exposed the pressing issue of waste management in Pakistan, with annual production reaching approximately 50 million metric tonnes.
Impact of IoU Study
The study disclosed that 35% of Islamabad residents and only 10.3% in Lahore engage in waste segregation for economic reasons. Alarmingly, 24% of respondents in Islamabad and 12.3% in Lahore reported resorting to burning waste in their localities. The findings highlighted a clear call for municipal intervention, with residents expressing strong support for waste segregation at the household level if facilitated by the municipality through a multiple bin system.
The study underscores the urgent need for businesses to adopt environmentally responsible practices and innovate in waste management for a more sustainable future. Engro has initiated a circular plastics program featuring a three-pronged approach to reduce plastic waste on a large scale. Embracing a circular economy not only promotes environmental sustainability but also generates employment opportunities, with a call to incorporate a gender perspective in waste management.
In closing remarks, Dr Ali Malik emphasized the pivotal role of youth in steering sustainable economic models and urged their active engagement in waste management initiatives to propel the transition towards a circular economy. The speakers explored key questions, including policy and practice issues, hindering the use of waste as a resource, economic growth challenges, and learning from neighboring countries.