Creating cleaner, equitable and climate-resilient cities

Launched in October 2022, the C40 Pathway Towards Zero Waste is a city-level strategy that supports Global South cities to improve waste management practices and reduce waste and resulting methane emissions. Cities that sign up for the pathway commit to a 2030 target of: 

  • providing timely city-wide waste collection services;
  • treating at least 30% of organic waste;
  • and reducing waste disposal emissions by at least 30%.

With waste representing up to 35% of overall municipal emissions in some Global South cities, cities have the potential to avoid generating one million tonnes of methane annually if they deliver on the pathway commitments1.

The pathway’s inaugural signatories include Accra, Amman, Buenos Aires, Curitiba, Dar es Salaam, Dhaka South, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Freetown, Nairobi, Quito, Rio de Janeiro and Tshwane. These cities have taken a crucial step to reduce emissions in their cities, in line with C40’s Towards Zero Waste Accelerator.

Read the pathway commitments in full in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

The case for investing in waste management infrastructure

Why is reducing waste an important climate action?

Food waste is a valuable resource that is too often thrown out instead of being repurposed for generating compost, nutrients and energy. Mismanagement of food waste comes at a considerable financial and environmental cost in the form of pollution of the soil and underground water, and methane emissions, which are powerful short-lived pollutants and a fire hazard.

The latest IPCC Report found that reducing methane emissions is the fastest way to tackle global heating. Methane’s contribution to global heating is 87 times higher than CO2 in the near term; further, each kilogram of food waste2 disposed of in dumpsites and landfills has the same global warming potential as burning one litre of petrol3, 4

In some Global South cities, waste can represent up to 35% of cities’ overall emissions, primarily from methane generated at dumpsites and landfills. Therefore, targeting food waste and reducing the resulting methane emissions is critical for cities to take meaningful climate action.

Why should cities improve their waste management?

Implementing inclusive and climate-friendly waste management infrastructure requires critical investment and a shift in how cities allocate municipal budgets, but the co-benefits of such investments are transformational. 

In addition to significantly reducing cities’ emissions, investing in sustainable waste infrastructure will create new green jobs. Locals will benefit from access to jobs that do not rely on traditional high-carbon sectors, helping to usher in more green and inclusive economies.

Addressing waste management inadequacies will also make cities cleaner, safer and more climate-resilient. Uncollected waste and overflowing landfills can lead to illegal open burning practices, polluting the water and air and clogging sewers, which increases disease and flood risk. By reducing waste and emissions and improving waste management, mayors can create healthier and more liveable cities.

How will cities deliver on their commitments to reduce waste emissions?

Cities on the pathway commit to reporting on their pathway goals progress annually. The goals include:

  • Addressing waste collection gaps.
  • Enabling steps towards developing sanitary landfills with landfill gas capture.
  • Creating new, good-quality local green jobs in the recycling industry and sustainable nutrient recovery sectors.
  • Phasing out organic waste disposal and mitigating emissions from disposal sites.
  • Creating and/or supporting solutions that put cities on a path towards zero waste.

Access the pathway commitments in full in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

1. Estimation based on Global South C40 Cities in Latin America, Africa, South East Asia, and South West Asia []
2. NSW Environment Protection Authority. (2022). Factsheet: Emissions impacts of landfilling food waste
3. Masnadi, M. S., El-Houjeiri, H. M., Schunack, D., Li, Y., Englander, J. G., Badahdah, A., … & Brandt, A. R. (2018). Global carbon intensity of crude oil production. Science, 361(6405), 851-853.

4. Hoekstra, A. (2020). Producing gasoline and diesel emits more CO2 than we thought. Innovation Origins [online]. c2021, 16.