About the WFD

The Waste Flow Diagram (WFD) tool is the perfect solution for understanding and addressing plastic pollution. Developed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), the University of Leeds, Eawag-Sandec and Wasteaware, this tool estimates the amounts of solid waste that leak into nature and oceans from various sources. Through a scenario function, it simulates how improved waste management could reduce environmental pollution and avoid marine litter. Get the insights you need to make a difference!

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  • Enables a rapid assessment of municipal solid waste management (MSWM) system
  • Maps and visualises materials flows
  • Quantifies the sources and fates of plastic leakage into the environment
  • Enables alternative scenarios to be forecasted
  • Allows benchmarking and comparison between cities


  • To estimate the amounts of plastic leakage into the environment
  • To plan waste projects, especially about marine litter prevention with focus on primary data
  • To monitor the effectiveness of applied waste interventions
  • To assist informed decision making in Municipal Solid Waste Management planning

Target Audience

  • Local authorities wanting to understand waste flows within municipal solid waste management systems
  • Development and donor agencies supporting capacity development and funding for solid waste management
  • Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), civil-society organisations and private investors wanting to make an improvement in the solid waste sector

The Method

The WFD collects data through primary and secondary data collection, observations, and interviews along waste management stations (from generation, collection, transport, treatment/recovery, to disposal). This data is entered in 5 sections: waste generation information, waste treatment and disposal, waste management in controlled facility, plastic leakage, and plastic leakage fate.

It combines a Material Flow Analysis (MFA) approach with systematic and observation based qualitative assessment. To quantify plastic leakages though various municipal solid waste management stages, it uses leakage and fate influencers, potential levels, factors, and such data, of which options are selected based on observations. The leakage influencers along the waste management stations (e.g. waste sorting facilities) are assessed in a systematic and qualitative respect to determine the sources of waste entering the environment. Flows represent possible pathways of material quantified in terms of tonnes per annum. Leakage
refers to plastic waste escaping the waste management system and becoming unmanaged.

Other aspects, such as the involvement of the informal waste sector in waste collection and treatment, as well as uncontrolled waste incineration, are also considered. Mass flow analysis (MFA) is applied to illustrate the quantities of waste streams. The WFD also supports SDG indicator 11.6.1 (Collection and treatment of municipal waste in controlled facilities) and improves its informative value.

WFD System Map for Municipal Solid Waste and Plastic Flows

Linkage to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11.6.1

The WFD and UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise City tool are harmonized with the same data points, using the SDG 11.6.1 monitoring method (Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal solid waste generated). WFD provides ample opportunities for benchmarking of data between different cities. This online portal will catalogue WFD case studies data, which is quality controlled and analysed by the team who has experience and expertise on and off the field from all over the world. The online portal is designed in an open data approach enabling data sharing with other relevant data bases. To assist the users in conducting WFD assessments, further training materials developed can be found here. 

State of Play

Since launch it has been applied in more than 100 cities and encouraged informed-based decision-making and infrastructure investments in improving municipal solid waste management especially in cities in low-to-middle income countries. The application of the WFD has led to a many of results across many different contexts. 

Waste Flow Diagram