Waste Management in Nepal: Characterization and Challenges to Promote a Circular Economy

Nicolás Enrique Labra Cataldo, Muyiwa Oyinlola, Samip Sigdel, Dori Nguyen, Alejandro Gallego Schmid

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In Nepal, the informal sector is responsible for treating 15% of household waste. It is the only alternative to landfilling and open disposal; however, the current waste management system does not acknowledge informal recyclers aggravating various challenges and vulnerabilities that the sector already faces. This study identifies and validates for the first time the challenges of the informal waste sector while providing a granular understanding of the actors that shape waste management in the region. The study uses primary data collected over a period of 6 months in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, the first and third most populated areas in Nepal. The methods considered were semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and a co-creation workshop with formal and informal actors. A novel characterization of waste management actors was conducted to identify two profiles namely cyclists and scavengers and question the formality of the collection centres. Findings suggest that the price volatility of recycled materials and the lack of treatment and absence of regulatory capacity are among the main challenges in promoting a circular economy from the informal sector. The recommendations to overcome these challenges are a series of policy reforms, such as an extended responsibility producer scheme and the review of the tax on recycled material transport. The main policy implication from the finding reveals that circular economy is already being promoted by the informal sector — a responsibility that should fall under the remit of the regional and national governments. The study concludes that integration is not only necessary to improve the conditions of informal workers but essential to developing a circular economy in Nepal.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCircular Economy and Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2023


  • Formal and informal waste management sector
  • Waste pickers
  • Waste management policies
  • Scavengers
  • Sustainability
  • Circular economy


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