High rate of population growth and urbanization along with increasing per capita waste generation make Solid Waste Management (SWM) as a major environmental and public health concern in developing countries (Zurbrugg, 2002). Besides, challenges of SWM in developing countries is more complicated due to the legal, technical, financial, institutional, economic, and social problems (Abd Manaf et al., 2009). Adverse effects of solid waste on the environment and human health along with significant related cost imposed on the societies necessitate authorities to have a comprehensive plan on SWM. Thus, in addition to technical aspect of SWM, health and environmental issues as well as the economic and social aspects should be considered. In Iran, waste management systems are subjected to array of problems and challenges due to lack of a national strategic plan setting out a roadmap for decision makers. On the one hand, the rate of waste generation in Iran is increasing due to economic growth and urbanization, and on the other hand, changing lifestyle and consumption patterns can affect the waste composition. Drawing a roadmap for SWM systems and consequently selecting the suitable methods for storage, collection and disposal of solid waste requires a comprehensive characterization of the quantity and quality of generated waste. Although waste management plans are mostly carried out on a local or regional scale, but programming, implementation and monitoring of waste management plans at the local level should follow up large-scale policies at the national level. Therefore, waste characterization at the national level is crucial and building up a strategic plan on SWM systems is necessary. It requires having more reliable data on waste composition and quantity in the current situation and anticipating its future trend (Burnley, 2007). Actually, waste characterization at national level gives the opportunity to policymakers to allocate enough fund and infrastructure to local government, evaluate the new waste related technologies and set up a field for collaboration between local government, private section and the other stockholders.
Several studies have been carried out on the characterization of waste generated in different countries. Regarding annual reports, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation in different Poland cities varies from 238 to 309 kg per capita. This situation is affected by a number of factors such as various methods and locations for waste sampling, several methods for field analysis and different time span for waste sampling (Den Boer et al., 2010). In another study in African countries, the waste generated in the main cities of Africa varies from 0.3 to 1.4 kg per day per capita with the daily average of 0.78 kg/per capita and significant standard deviation. Comparison of the standard deviation per capita of waste generated in African cities with its corresponding value in developed countries shows that waste generation changes in developing countries are more than developed countries, which in turn makes long-term planning difficult in these countries (Achankeng, 2003). In a comprehensive research, waste management challenges were examined in more than thirty urban areas in 22 developing countries in four different continents. In this study, a combination of different methods were used to assess the factors influencing the performance of SWM in the cities. Different data about waste generation rate, collection and transportation frequency and final disposal method were given. The studied cities were a mixture of cultures and included variety of SWM systems. One of the most important outcome of this research is that the authorities should have a reliable data on the quality and quantity of MSW in order to make proper and integrated waste management strategies adapted to the requirements of the citizens considering their ability to pay for the services provided. The financial support of the central government, the interest of the municipal leaders in waste management issues, the public participation and the proper administration of the funds are essential for a modernized sustainable system (Guerrero et al., 2013). Zhang et al. in 2010 published a paper on SWM systems and its problems in China shows that besides urbanization, population growth and industrialization, the quantity of MSW generation has been dramatically increased in recent years. Daily per capita solid waste generation rate increased from 0.50 kg in 1980 to 0.98 kg in 2006. Currently, waste composition in China is dominated by a high organic and moisture content, since the concentration of kitchen waste in urban solid waste makes up the highest proportion about 60% of the waste stream. The total amount of MSW collected and transported was 148 million tons in 2006, of which 91.4% was landfilled, 6.4% was incinerated and 2.2% was composted (Zhang et al., 2010). India is another country with the waste generation pattern similar to Iran. In India, per capita generation of MSW ranges from 0.2 to 0.5 kg per day. About 90% of MSW is disposed of unscientifically in open dumps and landfills, creating problems to public health and the environment. Such dumping has led to heavy metals rapidly leaching into the coastal waters (Sharholy et al., 2008). In 2009, a waste management study conducted in Malaysia that evaluating the amount of waste generation, characterization and management of solid waste in this country. The waste generation rate was about 0.5–0.8 kg per capita per day with the majority of organic waste (Manaf et al., 2009). In 2012, a comprehensive study on generation rate, composition and waste management was conducted worldwide. It shows that on average the developed countries typically generate 522–759 kg per capita per year, while this amount is 109–525 kg per capita per year in developing countries. Both in developing and developed countries, the main disposal method of municipal solid waste is landfilling, with the exception that in developed countries, landfills are in systematic manner, however in developing countries are mainly open dump (Hoornweg & Bhada., 2012). In recent years, due to the low economic benefits of waste separation and recycling, resource recovery in the form of heat and electricity production has gained favor. in Asia and other developing countries, the composition of the generated MSW is around 40–80% of MSW comprises organic waste, while in Europe and developed American continents an average of 30–40% of MSW consist of organic waste (Karak et al., 2012).
Despite the importance of waste management issue, in Iran there has been no integrated and comprehensive data about solid waste. Hasanwand et al. (2008) published the latest research on the solid waste identification carried out by the Ministry of the Interior in 2004. This study reveals that, average of municipal solid waste generation in the country was 0.64 kg per capita per day and the waste composition was 72.04% organic material, 6.43% paper and cardboard, 7.77% plastic, 2.52% metals, 1.14% rubber, 2.86% textiles, 2.03% glass, 1.10% wood and 4.11% other materials. Based on the results of this research, 10.3 million tons of MSW was generated in 2004, where 6% was recycled, 10% was composted, and 84% was mostly unprocessed dumped (Hassanvand et al., 2008). Since MSW quantity and quality can affect by economic development and degree of industrialization, so it is expected that the quantity and composition of generated MSW in Iran have been significantly changed through last decade. However, integrated studies on the identification of Iran's generated waste have not been carried out since 2004. The lack of documented information on the waste characterization in Iran has even reflected in international reports in the way that the World Bank reports on the world MSW statistics (published in 2012) has used Damghani et al. (2008) papers to present the status of waste generation in Iran (Hoornweg et al., 2012). However, the information provided by Damghani et al. (2008) is merely related to the Tehran city and it is impossible to generalize mentioned information to the whole country. In the latest edition of the World Bank report (published in 2018), an informal report by Abedini (2017) was used as the source of information on Iran SWM (Kaza et al., 2018). Therefore, it is necessary to examine SWM conditions in in different parts of the country to produce more reliable data on waste generation trends. On the other hand, according to the Waste Management Act (approved in 2004), all cities with a population of more than one million inhabitants, must have provided a comprehensive waste management plan by the end of 2011 (Waste Management Act, 2004). Therefore, this paper presents an overview of current status of MSW generation and disposal methods by collecting data from different cities of the country reported in various sources.