Virtual Environmental and Humanitarian Adviser Tool – (VEHA Tool) is a tool
to easily integrate environmental considerations in humanitarian response. Field Implementation guidances are useful for the design and execution of humanitarian activities in the field.

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VEHA - Field Implementation Guidance

Water supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion (WASH)
Solid waste management
Solid waste management
Community handling, separating, storing, sorting and processing of waste

Community handling, separating, storing, sorting and processing of waste


Environmental factors causing/contributing to the needs and affecting the humanitarian activity

Environmental factors, linked to solid waste management, that can cause or contribute to humanitarian needs or affect humanitarian activities include climate – temperature, humidity, rainfall; flooding; ground and surface water. Variation in these factors affects the demand for and complexity of waste management services. Flooding rivers often transport and deposit materials, including existing solid waste, and creating new solid waste, that then needs to be cleaned up to avoid problems such as creating new vector breeding sites and health problems in nearby populations. Strong wind and storms can also spread rubbish and debris, including from open solid waste piles.

Severe weather conditions may combine with other environmental conditions to generate waste. For example, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes often create large quantities of debris that need to be managed.

Gender, age, disability and HIV/AIDS implications

When launching a waste management project, it may be necessary to develop a locally valid classification of waste, taking into account different views of women and men regarding what materials are considered waste and what categories of waste are in use in local discourse and practice. In order to maximize the quality and efficiency of waste management services, it is important to know the needs and challenges of women.

For example, are women-owned enterprises able to generate a high work volume to pay for the higher investment to introduce new technology for recycling?

Do women have equal access to the necessary training?



Environmental impact categories

Air pollution
Soil pollution
Water pollution
Loss of biodiversity and ecosystems
Soil erosion
Visual Intrusion
Cultural acceptance
Impact on wellbeing / mental health

Summary of Impacts
Summary of potential environmental impacts

Air, soil, and water pollution from improper solid waste
management; disease spread; visual intrusion; unpleasant odor. Potential blockage of drains and watercourses.

Potential disease spread from improper handling, management/treatment of food waste.

Potential to reduce solid waste and pollution and build community or commercial-level recycling-based livelihoods.

Impact detail
Detailed potential environmental impact information

Poorly managed solid waste can cause direct air, soil and water pollution from waste burning; stockpiling decomposition and leachates entering the soil; poor landfill practices; and waste entering water courses. Dumping/landfill, incineration, composting and recycling have negative impacts on the environment.

Disposal of solid waste to landfills damages ecosystems and generates harmful gases and leachates which pollute air, water and soil and affect the health of humans, flora and fauna. Disposal to landfill or to ground surface creates a form of land-use change, altering the habitat of flora and fauna. The emission of toxic chemicals from many products including plastics, chemicals, oils, metals, synthetic materials, electronic and vehicle parts has a more acute impact on the health of people, flora, and fauna, particularly if dumped openly or burned.

Piled or poorly managed solid waste can harbor disease vectors and create an unpleasant visual intrusion and unpleasant odors that affect the quality of people’s lives.

Poorly managed solid waste has the potential to block drains and water courses, causing backflow, sedimentation, flooding and direct water pollution.

Food waste that is not properly separated, handled, composted or bio digested, or safely buried can cause disease spread.

There is always potential to reduce environmental impacts through reducing solid waste through amending community behaviors and suppliers’ and retailers’ packaging and distribution; and potential to separate waste and identify items for re-use, repurposing, return, or recycling. Solid waste can be used to contribute to recycling-based community livelihoods.


Summary of environmental activities

Awareness-raising in the negative impacts of solid waste and in waste separation, re-use, repurposing, recycling, and home composting; avoiding dumping to land or water; burning; piling; clean-up of waste from the community and local environment.

Provide recycling bins and collection services where recycling can be implemented.

Provide organic waste composting training or equipment at the household and community level

Activities to create community livelihoods from waste recycling.

Community cash for work solid waste and crisis waste clean-up activities.

Detailed guidance for implementing suggested environmental activities

Awareness-raising in the negative impacts of solid waste and in waste separation, re-use, repurposing, recycling, and home and community composting; avoiding dumping to land or water; burning; piling; clean-up of waste from the domestic and local environment.

Provide recycling bins where recycling can be implemented. When providing bins for recycling and for separating organic waste, determine if there are existing plastic containers from the humanitarian operation that can be reused for this purpose. If doing so, give preference to plastic containers with the same colors as any procured ones. Also, print or paint clear visible instructions or symbols regarding what items go in which container to facilitate waste separation.

Provide organic waste composting training or equipment at the household level. Assess and investigate the most suitable composting equipment for the collected organic waste at the household level. If this is not possible, assess the potential of community-level composting, ensuring a safe, low-impact location is identified. For example, locating the composting unit downstream of water abstraction points or wells or at an appropriate distance from surface water streams or lakes.

Develop activities to create community livelihoods from waste recycling. These could include cash for work solid waste/crisis waste clean-up.

Consult communities in designing a waste management plan with active community participation in solid waste separation, collection, and recycling. A community-based fee collection system can be introduced. This will provide employment where waste collection services are otherwise absent and the build-up of unhygienic waste is becoming a serious problem. Also, training and skills development in waste recycling and marketing/entrepreneurship should be introduced.

Lessons Learnt
Lessons from past experiences

Municipal solid waste reflects the culture that produces it and affects the health of the people and the environment surrounding it. Globally, people are discarding growing quantities of waste, and its composition is more complex than ever before, as plastic and electronic consumer products diffuse. Concurrently, the world is urbanizing at an unprecedented rate. These trends pose a challenge to cities, which are charged with managing waste in a socially and environmentally acceptable manner.

Effective waste management strategies depend on local waste characteristics, which vary with cultural, climatic, and socioeconomic variables, and institutional capacity. Globally, waste governance is becoming regionalized and formalized. In industrialized nations, where citizens produce far more waste than do other citizens, waste tends to be managed formally at a municipal or regional scale. In less-industrialized nations, where citizens produce less waste, which is mostly biogenic, a combination of formal and informal actors manages waste. Many waste management policies, technologies, and behaviors provide a variety of environmental benefits, including climate change mitigation. Key waste management challenges include integrating the informal waste sector in developing cities, reducing consumption in industrialized cities, increasing and standardizing the collection and analysis of solid waste data, and effectively managing increasingly complex waste while protecting people and the environment.

Activity Measurement
Environmental indicators/monitoring examples

Percentage of community waste that is being recycled

Percentage of organic waste being composted

Number of people employed in waste recycling activities

Activity status
Very high
Main Focus
Focus of suggested activities

Prevention of environmental damage

Mitigation of environmental damage

Resource implications (physical assets, time, effort)

Physical items such as bins and paints, organic waste composting equipment such as scoop shovel, spade, pitchfork, aerator, shredders and chippers

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Community health care
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