In recent years, our society has been undergoing a paradigm shift from one of rapid accelerated growth to that of sustained stable development. The term “sustainable development” was coined during the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), or better known as the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This was the most important event in the calendar of environmental groups where more than 172 governments and some 2400 representatives of NGO groups participated to address issues related to the environment. The meeting yielded several results that introduced steps towards adoption of the theme of sustainable development, the most famous of them all being the agreement on the Climate Change Convention, which eventually led to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
With environmental issues under the spotlight, governments around the world have begun to consider the theme in waste management systems. The objective was to develop a sustainable waste management system that could help to conserve resources and in order to achieve this, composting has been considered as the key to the system. However, there still remains numerous problems in the implementation and maintenance of the process as part of a coordinated waste management system, and developing countries especially have failed to tackle the problem.
This paper has set out to identify the key factors in successful composting projects and the lessons learnt from failed cases, based on a detailed assessment of case studies from different regions. Case studies from Japan, Asian countries, North America and the European Union have been examined and explained here. Action from the national government, coordinating efforts by the local authorities, acceptable quality of products, participation from the population, proper technical management of plants, appropriate financial management of plants and marketing and distribution strategies have been identified as the key factors of composting projects. In addition, lessons learnt from failed cases include cooperation between stakeholders, set up of supporting institutions, consideration of local conditions and community participation. Justifications of the key factors have also been adequately provided for.
The method of cluster analysis was used in this research for the establishment of a proposed approach for developing countries to emulate in their pursue of a sustainable waste management system through composting. With this approach, it is the author’s wish that developing countries would be able to find some success in establishing composting projects.