CDIA Conducts Waste Characterization Study to Inform Investment Planning in Lao PDR

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The cities of Pakse, Luang Prabang and Kaysone Phomvihane in Lao People’s Democratic Republic have been working to increase city livability by improving their solid waste management (SWM) services.

These cities started working with CDIA in December 2019 on a project preparation study (PPS) for infrastructure projects that will be fed into Lao PDR’s Livable Cities Investment Program to be financed by the Asian Development Bank and programmed for 2021.

As part of the PPS, CDIA led a waste characterization study as a starting point to help fully develop the SWM programs of the three cities.

“Waste characterization study gives us a good foundation for planning solid waste management investments,” says Chee Anne Roño, CDIA’s Urban Development Specialist who manages the Lao PDR PPS team.

“It is a first step to better establish the whole value chain of solid waste management. Understanding how much solid waste is generated, collected, treated and disposed in these cities will help determine and propose necessary interventions. The ultimate goal is to reduce waste that ends up in landfills.”

The Waste Characterization Study Approach

The waste study is aligned with CDIA’s capacity development program as it provides learning opportunities for a range of city stakeholders: waste pickers, local university students and technical staff from various departments involved in solid waste services across the three cities.

Overall, waste generation per capita was found to be higher in Luang Prabang than any other cities in Lao PDR, which may be due to the city’s vibrant tourism sector.  All three cities were found to exercise efficient recovery of organic waste at source. Kaysone Phomvihane for example, generated less organic waste at 40% of total. This is lower than other Asian cities’ waste output, which is typically between 60% and 80% organic. Organic waste is segregated at-source as fruit and vegetable peels were found to be commonly used for animal feeding and mulching of backyard gardens. Meanwhile, the proportion of recyclables in Pakse, such as plastics, metal, glass, electrical and electronic waste, and clean paper and cardboard was quite high.

“Samples of approximately 100-200 kg were taken every day for six days from different parts of the cities. Household, market, restaurant, hotel and school waste were gathered, depending on each city,” explains Eva Röben, Solid Waste Management Expert and a member of CDIA’s Lao PDR PPS team. “The samples were then analyzed using widely-used methods such as sieving, sorting and waste density measurement.”

Waste quality was highly variable across the cities thus requiring different set of interventions. Solid waste composition in Luang Prabang, for instance, is suitable for semi-mechanical treatment (methods for this include mechanical sorting and manual picking) and subsequent recovery of biodegradable waste.

When the study revealed that recyclable materials in Pakse and Kaysone Phomvihane were often contaminated with wet organic waste, a measure will be proposed to pilot some demonstration projects that will involve the separate collection of paper and plastic waste from businesses and administrations to better recover recyclable materials before they reach the final disposal stage.

The waste study also revealed a high proportion of garden waste in all three cities; and this waste is generally separately collected so it can be used for composting without further mechanical or manual segregation process.

The CDIA team intends to conduct another round of waste characterization during the wet season. An in-depth training on municipal SWM to include institutional and financial dimensions is also set to take place. This will be custom-tailored for the city context of Pakse, Luang Prabang and Kaysone Phomvihane.

Implications to Investment Planning

Relying on the results of the waste characterization, site visits and discussions with city officials, the CDIA team will be recommending a combination of investments for well-developed solid waste management systems in Pakse, Luang Prabang and Kaysone Phomvihane. These will potentially include recycling/composting facilities, transfer/sorting stations, RDF (refuse-derived fuel) producing facility and the construction of a new sanitary landfill.

“These investment options resulting from the PPS are yet to be validated and fully discussed with city officials and stakeholders which we started doing virtually,” says CDIA’s Chee Anne Roňo. “We are grateful for the support of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, our country partner in Lao PDR, for their willingness to work with the CDIA technical team remotely.”

The PPS on Lao PDR’s Livable Cities Investment Program is set to be completed by Q4 2020.



Overview of Waste Characterization Study in Kaysone Phomvihane

Waste sorting in Luang Prabang

Fine fraction analysis in Pakse



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