Overview of Solid Waste Management in Pakistan 

Pakistan, like many other nations, is facing an environmental challenge. The burgeoning population and the absence of effective environmental policy are leading to increasing levels of pollution. The issue of sustainable development has been largely left unaddressed in political discourse. This lack of attention given to sustainable development in policy-making has exacerbated the existing environmental situation. Presently, solid waste collection in Pakistan stands at 50 per cent of the total waste generated. For cities to be classified as sustainable cities, the figure should be at least 75 per cent. The mode of disposal of waste is also primarily dumping along the flood plains, further causing damage to the environment. brings you an overview of the solid waste management mechanism and policy in Pakistan. 


International Practices in Waste Management

Globally countries produce about 4 billion tons of waste of which 1.2 billion tons is municipal waste. Of this 4 billion ton of waste, only 1 billion ton is utilised through various means. 600 million tons of waste is recycled; 5 million tons of plastics, 405 million tons of ferrous scrap, 25 million tons of non-ferrous scrap and 170 million tons of paper. Moreover, 200 million tons of waste is utilised for energy generation.  

The waste produced is also dealt with through multiple means like recycling, dumping and burning. Recycling is the ideal way of dealing with solid waste management as it is the most environmentally friendly option. Presently, Europe recycles 41 per cent of its municipal waste while the United States of America only recycles 32 per cent of its waste. 

Recognising the need to adopt environmentally conducive practices, countries have started investing in technologies that not only manage waste efficiently but are also cost-effective. For example, China is investing US$ 6.3 billion in a move to jump its recycling capacity to 30 per cent by 2030. Similarly, other countries have also started investing in green technologies to reduce waste and provide sustainable solutions for the future. Only through a collective and cohesive strategy, can the environment be protected and preserved for future generations. 


Waste Generation Trend in Pakistan

Pakistan produces copious amounts of waste every year and employs mainly three ways of disposing of solid waste: landfill, size reduction and screening. As per various studies, urban areas of Pakistan generate 54,888 tons of solid waste daily of which only 60 per cent is collected by municipal authorities. 30 to 50 per cent of the waste in most cities is not collected at all. 

Similarly, various healthcare facilities alone produce 250,000 tons of medical waste every year. Some facilities resort to burning the medical waste which in turn produces toxic gases. Other facilities dump these waste materials in open grounds which lead to the spread of diseases. 

The Engineering Planning Management and Consultant (EPMC) conducted a study in 1996 titled “Data Collection for Preparation of National Study on Privatization of Solid Waste Management in Eight Selected Cities of Pakistan”. The study revealed the average solid waste produced varied from 0.283 kg/capita/day to 0.613 kg/capita/day or from 1.896 kg/house/day to 4.29 kg/house/day in the given cities. As per estimated projections, Pakistan is to produce 71,018 tons per day or 25.921 m tons per year of solid waste materials. 


Solid Waste Composition in Pakistan

Solid waste in Pakistan is primarily composed of metal, paper, plastic, rubber, animal waste, food waste, grass, leaves, textile waste, glass, bones, stones etc. 

According to EPMC estimates of 1996, the typical composition of solid waste in major cities of Pakistan showed that food waste contributed 8.4% to 21% of solid waste, leaves and grass contributed 10.2% to 15.6%, fines contributed 29.7% to 47.5% and recyclables contributed 13.6% to 23.55% of waste materials.  

Composition %
Food Waste 8.4 % – 21 %
Leaves, Grass, Straw, Fodder 10.2 % – 15.6 %
Fines 29.7 % – 47.5 %
Recyclables 13.6 % – 23.55 %


The physical composition of the waste (% weight) in major cities is shown below: 

Cities Faisalabad Karachi Hyderabad Peshawar Quetta
Plastic and Rubber 4.8 6.4 3.6 3.7 8.2
Metals 0.2 0.75 0.75 0.3 0.2
Paper 2.1 4.1 2.4 2.1 2.2
Cardboard 1.5 2.4 1.5 1.9 1.3
Rags 5.2 8.4 4.7 4.3 5.1
Glass 1.3 1.5 1.6 1.3 1.5
Bones 2.9 3 2 1.7 2
Food Waste 17.2 21 20 13.8 14.3
Animal Waste 0.8 3 5.8 7.5 1.7
Leaves, Grass, etc. 15.6 14 13.5 13.6 10.2
Wood 0.7 2.25 2.25 0.6 1.5
Fines 43 29.7 38.9 42 44
Stones 4.6 3.5 3 7.3 7.8


Solid Waste Management Policy in Pakistan

The Government of Pakistan has enacted the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act in 1997. Section 11 of this act states that “ no person shall discharge or emit or allow the discharge or emission of any effluent or waste or air pollutant or noise in an amount, concentration or level which is more than the National Environmental Quality Standards…”. This act also provides the framework and guidelines to establish Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) at the federal and provincial level to address the disposal of solid waste. 


Existing legislation

The current rules and legislation related to solid waste management in Pakistan include: 

  • Section 11 of Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997 
  • Draft Hazardous Substances Rules 1999
  • Islamabad Capital Territory By-Laws, 1968 by Capital Development Authority Islamabad 
  • Section 132 of the Cantonment Act 1924  
  • National Environmental Quality Standard 2000 
  • Provisions in Local Government Ordinance 2001 
  • Lahore Solid Waste Management By-Laws 2005 
  • Public-Private Partnership (PPP) policy 2007 
  • Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Act 2010 


Required Legislation

The guidelines and rules needed for solid waste management in Pakistan include: 

  • Basic rules related to recycling and repurposing 
  • Waste management rules
  • Development of Environmental Performance Indicators (EPI)
  • Adoption Life Cycle assessment approaches
  • Establishment of eco-labelling guidelines
  • Establishment of guidelines for environmentally sound waste collection and disposal
  • Establishment of eco-friendly landfill sites 

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