Annually, cities worldwide produce around two billion metric tons of municipal waste, nearly half of which does not undergo proper treatment. This challenge is acute in the Global South, where inadequate infrastructure often fails to manage waste effectively. Organic waste, which may make up to 70% of the total waste, frequently remains untreated, leading to substantial methane emissions as it decomposes. A recent report from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) projects that waste volume will increase by two-thirds by 2050. The financial implications are alarming, with costs related to pollution, health, and climate impacts forecasted to rise from $252 billion to an astronomical $600 billion annually. UNEP’s report emphasizes the urgent need for a shift towards zero-waste strategies and the improvement of waste management systems to address these severe environmental, health, and economic impacts.

Despite the Global North’s emphasis on waste reduction and recycling, the Global South faces significant challenges in managing organic waste. Cities like Dar es Salaam and Rio de Janeiro, part of the C40 Cities network focused on climate change, are pioneering effective waste management strategies. These include composting market waste and converting organic refuse from schools and supermarkets into compost and biogas, which help reduce methane emissions and provide societal benefits like cleaner air and job creation in green sectors.