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Improving City Resilience to Climate Change Through Organic Waste Management

Urban Resilience Through Organic Waste Management

In the face of rapidly escalating climate change, urban areas worldwide are grappling with the urgent need to enhance their resilience. Cities, as focal points of economic activity and human habitation, are particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate shocks. One innovative and sustainable solution gaining traction is the strategic management of organic waste. This article aims to shed light on the critical role organic waste management plays in fortifying urban resilience, urging policymakers to prioritise and implement comprehensive actions for a sustainable future.

Climate change poses a multifaceted threat to cities, manifesting in extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and disruptions to essential services. Urban areas are not only at risk of direct climate-related damages but also face secondary impacts, such as compromised food security, increased healthcare burdens, and strained infrastructure. To address these challenges, a holistic approach is required, and organic waste management emerges as a crucial component in building city resilience.

Cities generate a substantial amount of organic waste, predominantly from households, restaurants, markets and food industries. For example a city with a population of 5 million people generates around 1800 tons of organic waste. This waste, if not managed properly leads to the generation of methane, carbon-dioxide and urban flooding, in addition to the known environmental health risks. Traditionally, this waste has been sent to a final dumping ground, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and soil degradation, especially in developing countries. In disposal sites and landfills, organic waste produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. This gas can be reduced, controlled, and converted. Implementing composting and anaerobic digestion processes can significantly reduce these emissions, contributing to local and global climate change mitigation efforts.

In the case of lower waste collection rates, this waste is disposed of in drains, along with other mixed waste. By reducing and redirecting organic waste toward sustainable management practices, cities can turn this environmental burden into an opportunity for resilience building. Improved conversion of organic waste and applications can improve soils against droughts and heatwaves impacting on food security. This can be the basis of green jobs and income for vulnerable groups.

Policy Recommendations

Integrated Waste Management Policies

Policymakers should prioritise the development and implementation of integrated waste management policies that include specific measures for organic waste. These policies can encourage the adoption of sustainable practices and technologies, focusing on reducing, diverting, and converting organic waste streams. Reduction and diversion of organic waste must be the first principle for such policies.

Public Awareness Campaigns

Raising awareness among residents, businesses, and industries about the benefits of organic waste management is crucial. Public support is essential for the success of any waste management initiative.

Investment in Infrastructure

Governments should allocate funds for the establishment of organic waste processing facilities, composting sites, and anaerobic digestion plants. Collaborations with private enterprises can expedite the deployment of these facilities.

Incentives for Innovation

Offering financial incentives and recognition for innovative approaches to organic waste management can stimulate the development of new technologies and solutions.


As urbanisation continues to accelerate and climate change intensifies, it is imperative for cities to adopt proactive measures to enhance their resilience. Organic waste management stands out as a tangible and effective strategy that not only mitigates environmental impacts but also contributes to the overall well-being of urban communities. By prioritising sustainable waste management policies and practices, policymakers can pave the way for resilient and thriving cities in the face of an uncertain climatic future.

Enhancing Soil Health

The by-products of organic waste management, such as compost, enrich soil fertility and structure. Healthy soils act as natural buffers against extreme weather events, improve soil structure and water retention, and promote overall ecosystem resilience. This provides a sustainable nature-based solution.

Job Creation and Economic Opportunities

Developing organic waste management infrastructure generates employment opportunities, fostering economic resilience in the community. This can be done through innovative solutions, demand creation, training, and skills development.

Reduction in GHG Emissions

Reduction of organic waste can make cities resilient against flooding and droughts. Uncollected organic waste, mixed with other wastes, such as plastics is often disposed of in rainwater drains, thus reducing the ability of the system to drain out rainwater.

About Adam Smith International

ASI is leading the drive to strengthen urban resilience through innovative, impact-driven, and sustainable programmes across the globe.

Working across Climate Change, Infrastructural development, and governance, ASI has supported major donors to deliver high impact programmes improving livelihood for several people across the globe.

We have built expertise in project design and delivery in the most difficult contexts enabling access to critical infrastructure for the most vulnerable in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, and the rest of the world.

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