Poor Solid Waste Management In Pakistan! Why?

Pakistan’s solid waste management problem is grave. Nearly 5 million people die every year from diseases related to waste.


According to recent estimates, Pakistan produces 30 million metric tonnes of municipal solid waste each year. Rapid population growth, urbanization and economic development are all expected to lead to a significant increase in waste generation over the next few years. About 50% of the generated waste is collected. However, the rate of collection varies from 80% to very little in large cities to 80% in rural areas (Mihai 2019 and Grozavu 2019). Waste disposal is almost impossible to find managed landfill sites. Most urban waste is left to rot on the ground or not collected. To make progress towards better health and reduce contamination of water and land, as well as to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG), emissions more efficiently, and to improve aesthetics, Pakistan needs a waste roadmap for its policymakers. 

Open Heaps of solid waste

You can find GHG emission estimates for Pakistan’s waste sector in Pakistan’s National Communication (MOCC Pakistan, 2018) and the Nationally Determined Contribution to UNFCCC (Government of Pakistan 2016,)3. Pakistan has signed the Paris Agreement and pledged in its NDC to reduce 20% of GHG emissions by 2030.4 This is subject to international funding available to cover the abatement cost. The uncertainty surrounding the waste sector’s emissions estimates means that no mitigation measures have been developed. It is essential to improve the accuracy of historical GHG emission estimates and project future ones. This is why mitigation actions are being implemented to reduce GHG emissions from this sector.

Current Waste Management Procedure

Generally, The responsibility for managing waste is upon city and town administrations in urban areas, but there is no waste management system for rural areas at all. In rural areas, people manage their waste independently through combustion or other non-technical ways without considering their environmental effects.

In some cities like Multan, Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Lahore, and Rawalpindi, Waste management companies have been established for this purpose. All these companies are working under their respective Municipal Administration authority.

While only in Lahore & Rawalpindi, Turkish company Albayrak has worked as a Waste management company for over eight years (2010-2021).

In 2021, the contract expired, and Municipal Administration again handed over the responsibility for managing waste in the city to RWMC(Rawalpindi Waste Management Company) in Rawalpindi and LWMC in Lahore.

Waste Management Techniques

Waste management is being carried out in a similar typical fashion all around the country.

Around 60-70% of waste is collected daily. The collection frequency is once or sometimes twice a day, which means 24-hour cleanliness is not ensured. In some streets, open heaps can be seen anytime. 

For primary collection, the waste collection fleet consists of donkey pull-carts or handcarts, then open trucks, a tractor/trolley system, and arm roll containers/trucks for secondary and final collection. Some municipalities employ street sweepers or sanitary workers to supplement other collection methods. 

They use wheelbarrows or brooms for collecting solid waste from small piles and dustbins. Then they store it in both formal and informal storage locations.

Scavengers segregate a large portion of waste for recycling purposes.

As far as disposal is concerned, not every city has a proper landfill site. Only Lahore and Karachi have landfill sites; other cities dump their waste openly without utilizing engineering techniques.

I have personally worked in Albayrak Rawalpindi for over three years. I have never seen anyone monitoring disposal techniques. The residents near the dumpsite protested several times due to environmental, health, and aesthetic problems caused by the dumpsite.    

In short, no modern techniques are used to manage solid waste in Pakistan. Mostly non-technical people are managing waste in Pakistan.

Contributing Factors in Poor Solid Waste Management

Some key factors are contributing to poor management of solid waste. 

Citizen’s Non-Cooperation:

Citizens are not aware of the consequences of mismanagement. So, they don’t consider it their responsibility to contribute to a cleaner environment. There are some prominent factors for citizens to improve. If they do so, waste management will be a lot easier.

Areas of Improvement for Citizens 

  • · Citizens should segregate waste in their homes to make it easy for the municipal corporation to manage.
  • · Citizens should reuse things as much as they can.
  • · Citizens should throw garbage in designated places only.
  • · They should not create hurdles for waste management employees in any case. For example, in Rawalpindi, 95% of the lids of waste containers have been stolen.
  • · They should not misuse the helpline or complaint centre.
  • · They must neither offer a bribe to sanitary workers nor humiliate them. Otherwise, workers will work in those streets from where they will get extra money.


Politics is the biggest hurdle in waste management. It’s an uphill battle for waste management employees to manage political pressure. Due to political pressure, WMC cannot utilize its full man force. WMC has to entertain politically strong personalities; then, they can use their remaining man force to manage the waste.

Around 25% of workers in every UC are working as personal servants of political personalities. 

Besides this, whenever Waste Management Officers push workers for punctuality or any other reason, they use their political links to pressure officers. In this way, officers are compelled to maintain good relations with political persons and do not have complete control over their team.

Waste management activities are generally slow in areas where no politically strong person resides.



Corruption is a matter of grave concern in almost every field in Pakistan. First, If we talk about Rawalpindi and Lahore, Pakistan Government had made a fragile contract with a Turkish company(ALbayrak).

All terms and conditions are nicely defined in the contract. Monitoring has been established as well.

For example, Albayrak will have to make sure.

  • The city is clean.
  • Waste Containers and Vehicles are in working condition.
  • Sanitary Workers are wearing the uniform.
  • Collection Vehicles are not spilling leachate on the roads.
  • etc

The fine for every violation has been mentioned in the contract, which is perfect. But at the same, it is also written in the contract that the penalty can not exceed 3% of the total monthly invoice

It means that establishing a monitoring team and complaint portal is useless.

TMA Zonal Officers have almost hijacked the waste management system in the city. In Every UC, They distribute workers to political personalities. Around 100 sanitary workers are allocated to every zonal Officer to clean big drains; Zonal Officers manipulate their records. None of them works in the field, but their salaries are distributed among all the facilitators. 

Besides this, they charge extortion money to all the workers in every union council. In return, they allow the worker to make a cut of 2 hours in their duty time and work privately.

In all this mess, the public gets affected, and the city’s cleanliness is compromised.

As everyone is doing corruption without fear, some waste management officers also got inspired and used their authority to make money.

The most significant way to make money for Officers(Assistant/Deputy manager Operations) is using heavy machinery for personal uses. There are a lot of dumps of C&D (construction & demolition) waste in the city. Every contractor wants to get rid of those dumps. So they contact their respective AM(Assistant Manager) and offer him a handsome amount for just making room for their waste.

Some local waste collectors also offer money to Assistant Managers for allowing them to dump their waste on the company’s collection points because it cuts their dumpsite expenditures.

Vehicle Maintenance:

Vehicle maintenance is producing a lot of hurdles in waste management.

Vehicle maintenance is so poor that not even a single vehicle functions correctly. It’s a matter of extreme shame that the vehicles that were supposed to reduce environmental risks are actually increasing air pollution with their excessive smoke.

They are using low-quality Mobil oil and petrol. The maintenance workshop is working on a motto of giving only temporary solutions. Sometimes, a vehicle has to go to the workshop several times a day. 

Some of the Officer’s vehicles cannot wipe off their front screens in case of rain.

Almost every second vehicle spends more time in the workshop than in the field. If we compare vehicle fitness standards to any developed country, all these vehicles will be declared unfit. 

There is no ergonomics concept, although there is an HSE Team in the company.

Author: Engr. Husnain SultanEnvironmental Engineer. Passionate to spread awareness regarding current and future environmental crisis.An international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation.

Leave a Comment