ECO Solutions Spotlight: Lahore, Sur, Barcelona 

As COP28 approaches, it is the ideal time to look across the world for inspiring examples of sustainable ecowaste breakthroughs and success stories. One of the major themes of this year’s conference will be international collaboration, as it highlights the urgent need to share resources, technologies and ideas that can accelerate the zero waste and circular economy progress across the world.

Accordingly, we’ve decided to throw the spotlight on three very different cities and explore their varying approaches to tackling the perennial problem of municipal waste generation.


Lahore, Pakistan – Smog city is cleaning up

Pakistan was hit particularly hard in 2022 by climate-induced disaster as prolonged monsoon rains led to devasting flooding. According to the Red Cross, this impacted an estimated 33 million people, displaced 8 million, injured almost 13,000 and killed at least 1,700.

Therefore, Pakistan’s government and people are acutely aware of their heightened climate vulnerabilities, and are resolved to act. Lahore, a major urban area with endemic pollution issues, is determined to tackle its mounting municipal waste problem with entrepreneurialism and ingenuity.

Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) was established in 2010 and has grown to become Asia’s largest waste management company in terms of its operations and workforce. Today, it directs the round-the-clock efforts of over 15,000 employees and a vehicle fleet over 1,400 strong. Its efforts allow for a top recycling rate of 60% of all organic/green waste, while its Lakhodair landfill site operates continuous waste-to-energy operations by siphoning off methane gas produced by the waste, supplying it to five local factories.

LWMC also collaborates with a small army of local entrepreneurs who take scour landfill sites for plastic waste to repurpose into usable products. These range from sustainable wood pulp to the more esoteric – their partner Green Earth Recycling recently created 350 manhole covers entirely from plastic waste.

This multi-pronged approach demonstrates how versatile municipal waste really is when it comes to recycling and repurposing it. Lahore is well on the way to not just alleviating its public waste issues, but actively turning it into a source of enduring value.

Sur, Oman – Tyre recycling puts green savings in gear

Discarded tyres are a global issue, creating health hazards ranging from chemicals leaching into the ground and – more dramatically – sparking fires large enough to be seen from space, such as Kuwait’s Al Sulaibiya tyre graveyard, which has erupted into carcinogenic flame in 2012 and again in 2018. Altogether, an estimated 1-1.8 billion tyres are discarded every year globally, creating literal mountains of highly dangerous waste.

In Oman’s Sur, the Sultanate’s first industrial-scale tyre recycling plant may tip the scales back towards more favourable outcomes for this hazardous waste stream. Opening in late August 2023, the new plant has been equipped with the latest recycling technologies and highly skilled operators, giving it an annual processing capacity of 6000 metric tonnes of discarded tyres. To put this in perspective, recycling one metric tonne of tyres (rather than incinerating them) creates CO2 emissions savings of 0.7-1.1 tonnes, depending on your methodology and energy usage. Accordingly, the plant could create 6,600 tonnes of CO2 emissions savings annually, not to mention the additional climate and public health benefits of avoiding chemical/toxin leaching, and so on.

Not only is this a climate action coup for Oman, it’s also another step forward in upscaling circular economy practices. Up to 99% of the weight of each waste tyre processed at the plant is recyclable, allowing it to be turned into recoverable raw materials.

Barcelona, Spain – Thinking big, planning for zero waste

Time and again, climate experts warn us that greater ambition is needed to tackle pressing issues like waste generation and management. Barcelona’s civic leadership have taken heed of this advice, building on its already impressive history of advanced waste management methods. Barcelona started its zero waste dream back in 2010, and since then it has steadily advanced the sustainability and efficiency of its waste collection, recycling and reuse operations and public-facing initiatives.

Late last year, Barcelona and Munich both signed an official declaration to achieve Zero Waste Cities Certification – a European third-party assessed certification standard developed by Zero Waste Europe and operated by its sister organisation Mission Zero Academy (MiZA).

Alongside a growing range of city-wide initiatives to engage the public and different stakeholders to facilitate the zero waste transition, Barcelona plans to:

  • Integrate a zero waste philosophy into all aspects of municipal waste management;
  • Achieve a 67% separate waste collection rate by 2027, (19% higher than the European average of 48%).
  • Reduce waste production per capita to below 427 kg by 2027.

These tangible (and ambitious) targets signify how local government elements can take the initiative and present the rest of their nation with a suitable roadmap for similar success. 

Any and all means necessary – Tackling waste at source and at scale

This brief analysis of three success stories from around the world highlights the broader truth that to make more rapid progress in our shared climate targets, it will be necessary to share sustainability best practices more effectively than ever before. The best solutions to each nation’s waste management issues may already be available and practicable elsewhere – they just need to be noticed and implemented without undue delay.