Press Statement

22 March 2018 

UK government must target international aid for solid waste management to tackle marine plastic pollution

Waste needs to be on the agenda on World Water Day 2018, according to CIWM and WasteAid UK, who have today (22nd March) issued a call to action to the UK Government with a detailed briefing paper on the relationship between solid waste management and the growing tide of marine plastics pollution. 

‘From the Land to the Sea’ catalogues the impact that poor or non-existent waste collection and management practices in developing countries have on the growing quantity of plastic waste that is entering the oceans every year.

“The figures speak for themselves,” says CIWM’s chief executive Dr Colin Church. “More than 90% of marine plastics comes from land-based sources. Overall, mismanaged municipal solid waste in developing countries could account for 50-70% by weight of the plastics entering the oceans.”

Recent debate on this agenda has focused on the amount of waste entering the oceans from 10 major rivers in Asia and Africa but this is just the tip of the iceberg at 0.4-4 million tonnes a year. 

“By far the biggest problem is the 4-12 million tonnes a year that comes from mismanaged solid wastes generated within 50km of the coast, of which more than 50% comes from just five east Asia countries,” explains Professor David Wilson, President of CIWM and editor-in-chief of UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook.

This is a major concern, but it is only one aspect of the problem. With two billion people living without waste collection and three billion without controlled waste disposal, the poor management of solid waste is a global crisis, leading to land, water and air pollution, flooding, disease, disability, social inequality and climate change impacts.

In light of the compelling case for action, both for communities blighted by poor waste management and for the world environment, CIWM and WasteAid UK are calling on the UK Government to take immediate action by:

committing to increasing the proportion of its aid spent on waste management to at least 3% from its current estimated level of 0.3%;
championing the need for increases in aid to waste management at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and at the G7 this year, for example as part of the blue economy priority; and 
spearheading the negotiation of a binding international treaty to tackle marine plastic pollution, which should have at its core prevention through proper solid waste management, as well as efforts to clean up existing pollution.

The call to action reflects the magnitude of the challenge. The detailed briefing lays bare some shocking facts: some two thirds of households in lower income countries have no waste collection at all and approximately nine million people die of diseases linked to mismanagement of waste and pollutants, twenty times more than die of malaria, and children face the highest risks. 

However, it also points to a range of actions that governments, donors and aid organisations can take to develop and support sustainable approaches that enable local communities in developing countries to become engaged in improving their environment through waste collection and recycling schemes and to create value from their wastes.

“These communities need support from the ground up,” explains Mike Webster, chief executive of the charity WasteAid UK, which was commissioned by CIWM last year to develop the Making Waste Work toolkit for communities and NGOs and aid organisations working in developing countries.

“Simple waste management brings major improvements to people’s lives and the essential waste management skills and recycling techniques we share in the Making Waste Work toolkit can help a typical community to recycle up to eighty per cent of its waste. With support from the UK and Commonwealth governments, and the international aid and donor communities, we can make a very real difference.”

“Ultimately this is win-win opportunity,” says CIWM’s Dr Church. “A pro-poor, inclusive approach to improve solid waste management would provide a vital service to some of the world’s poorest communities, helping them to have a healthier place in which to live, grow and do business, whilst also creating jobs. It could also be a major step in tackling the marine plastics crisis, potentially halving the amount of plastic waste entering the oceans and also reducing the wider environmental impact of waste on the environment.”

The full briefing paper can be found here


Notes to Editors: 
1. CIWM is the leading professional body for the resource and waste management sector representing around 5,500 individuals in the UK, Ireland and overseas. Established in 1898, CIWM is a non-profit making organisation, dedicated to the promotion of professional competence amongst waste managers. CIWM seeks to raise standards for those working in and with the sector by producing best practice guidance, developing educational and training initiatives, and providing information on key waste-related issues. More information can be found at

2. WasteAid UK ( is a charity working to make an impact on the global waste emergency by: 
Partnering with local organisations to improve the health, environment and livelihoods of people without waste services. 
Building the skills of local people to deliver practical solutions to the waste management crisis in their own communities. 
Raising awareness of the benefits of proper waste management and campaigning for greater change.