Turning Trash into Treasure: UNHCR Embraces Circular Economy for Waste Management

In an era defined by burgeoning urbanization, escalating waste generation, and growing environmental concerns, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is taking a pioneering step into the realm of circular economy for waste management. Embracing circularity, the agency is not only minimizing its environmental footprint but also empowering refugees and local communities in host countries through innovative waste reduction and recycling programs.

UNHCR’s Circular Waste Management Journey:

The UNHCR’s circular waste management initiative, aptly named "Turning Trash into Treasure," is anchored in the principles of the circular economy: reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover. The agency’s overarching goal is to minimize waste generation, extend the lifespan of products, and create new economic opportunities.

Key Initiatives:

  • Waste Audits: UNHCR conducts waste audits to assess the types and quantities of waste generated at refugee camps. This data guides the development of targeted waste management strategies.
  • Composting: Compost pits are established to convert organic waste, such as food scraps and yard waste, into fertile soil. This not only reduces landfill dependency but also creates employment opportunities.
  • Recyclables Collection: Sustainable recycling programs are implemented to collect recyclables, such as paper, plastic, and metal, and divert them from landfills.
  • Upcycling: UNHCR collaborates with local businesses to upcycle waste materials into new products, creating a circular loop and generating income.
  • Circular Economy Training: Workshops and training programs equip refugees and local community members with skills in waste management, recycling, and composting.

Benefits of Circular Economy:

  • Environmental Sustainability: Circularity reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, conserving natural resources and minimizing environmental impact.
  • Economic Empowerment: By creating new economic opportunities, circular programs empower refugees and local communities, fostering their self-reliance and resilience.
  • Social Inclusion: The initiative promotes social inclusion by involving refugees and locals in waste management activities, creating a sense of community and belonging.


Q: What is the primary goal of UNHCR’s circular waste management initiative?

A: The initiative aims to minimize waste generation, extend the lifespan of products, and create new economic opportunities.

Q: What are some of the key initiatives undertaken as part of the initiative?

A: Waste audits, composting, recyclables collection, upcycling, and training programs are key initiatives.

Q: What are the environmental and economic benefits of circular economy?

A: Environmental benefits include reduced landfill dependency and conservation of natural resources. Economic benefits include job creation and increased income generation.

Q: How does the initiative promote social inclusion?

A: By involving refugees and locals in waste management activities, the initiative promotes social inclusion and creates a sense of community and belonging.


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