Waste Management

Waste generation and management is an important measure of the impact we at the UN have on our surrounding communities. The 2017 inventory was the third official UN waste inventory.


Results in 2018


A total of 60 UN entities provided waste data for 2017, an increase over the 56 entities that provided data for the previous year. Fifty-six of these entities provided quantitative data.

Based on data from sites that were able to provide full quantitative data for all types of waste generated, the UN System generated 540 kilograms of waste per capita in 2017.

Field Missions represent about 85% of the total reported waste quantity. When Field Missions are excluded, the amount of waste generated per capita in 2017 was 240 kilograms. This difference is largely due to the fact that the work of Field Missions takes place in camps where occupants both work and live, unlike a typical UN office where waste is generated during working hours only.

Regarding waste collection, private contractors collected the largest proportion of waste (49%), followed by the UN-managed collection (44%). The large proportion of the latter is due to the lack of municipal or private waste collection and disposal facilities in a number of remote locations where the UN operates. Lack of facilities is also the reason behind municipal collection accounting for only 1% of waste. In 2017, 3% of reported waste was sold, with the remainder categorised as unknown, donated, exported, or collected as part of a take-back scheme.

In terms of waste disposal, the limited facilities associated with remote locations continue to play a significant role. In these locations recycling and waste energy recovery can be challenging or non-existent. As a result, the UN-wide rate of reuse, recycling, composting and recovery is 23%. This increases to 67% when Field Missions are excluded, which appears promising. However, the sites that are able to report waste tend to have more robust waste management systems, and therefore the rate of reuse, recycling, composting and recovery for reported waste may be higher than the rate for all waste. Going forward, we would like to increase the number of sites that report to continue improving the understanding of waste impacts throughout the entire UN System.

To learn more about how the UN’s waste data is calculated, please read our methodology.


Case studies


UNON, UN Environment, UN Habitat and WFP in Kenya have been working together to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste going from the UN’s Gigiri complex to landfill. By improving collection and sorting, it is expected that at least 90% of all office waste will be recycled. Read more…

Read other waste-related case studies from across the UN System here.

Click here for a full version of the waste table.


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