Rising prosperity around the globe – welcome and overdue in many respects – has certain undesirable consequences. It leads to an increase in the demand for raw materials, putting pressure on our limited natural resources. At the same time, due to dominant linear economic models of make-use-throw, increasing prosperity also leads to generation of waste.
Rising quantities of waste are a global challenge. The challenge manifests itself most visibly in large cities around the world but is more acutely felt in developing countries. Dealing effectively with rapidly increasing amounts of waste is a complex management challenge. Environmental, business, political and social considerations play a role. This report suggests a framework for working through these complexities by focusing on two critical and interconnected questions. First, is waste conceived of as a burden to be got rid of or a resource for generating income and employment? Second, is the waste/resource managed by actively engaging the urban informal sector or tolerating the informal sector merely on the margin? The latter is a burning issue for cities with many poor people.
The report identifies four future scenarios of this complex waste/resource management landscape using tools from Foresight methods and political economy analysis. We also identify the dynamics within and across the four scenarios. Although the four scenarios developed in the report represent stylised constructs, they were developed in a participatory workshop and represent stakeholders’ views about their current problems and future ambitions. At the same time, they represent political choices that would influence the development of a particular approach of waste/resource management in a city.
Our results have implications for enhancing understanding of the policy choices that can be made today to influence waste/resource management in the future. The methods and results also offer insights into future research on waste/resource management.