By 2050, global waste volumes are projected to more than double in low- to middle-income countries. Cities are already struggling with overflowing landfills and inadequate waste services. Organic waste in landfills is a major source of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Plastics wreak havoc on ocean wildlife and release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere when burned.
For the past year, McKinsey.org—an independent non-profit founded by McKinsey—has been exploring the global waste challenge as it seeks to develop scalable Solutions to complex social challenges around the world.
It is working in partnership with local governments, NGOs, and businesses on its first initiative, Rethinking Recycling. The initiative seeks to increase the number of households recycling and to improve the effectiveness of sorting and processing systems. It also works with businesses to encourage them to purchase recycled plastics.
In its first five months, the pilot has worked with roughly 500 households, achieving a 30 percent recycling rate for dry recyclables, such as plastics, paper, and glass—higher than many US cities with decades-long histories of recycling. The program aims to expand to 10,000 households in Buenos Aires by the end of 2019. A parallel project is underway in Denpasar, the capital city of the Indonesian state of Bali.
“McKinsey.org’s mission is to have lasting impact on complex social challenges,” says Cynthia Shih, a member of the McKinsey.org team. “It’s exciting to be bringing McKinsey & Company’s expertise and capabilities to directly addressing those challenges while working through innovative partnerships to create solutions that can scale up quickly.”
Juan Musa, a McKinsey consultant based in our Buenos Aires office, spent six months working with McKinsey.org on the pilot. “McKinsey.org is trying to address a global problem. But it’s also a very local issue,” he explains. “The barrio is very close to our firm’s office, only 10 blocks away. Seeing this change happening is very important for me.”