The method of the WFD

Many efforts are underway to try to reduce plastic pollution entering oceans, including beach clean-ups, bans on single-use plastics, and the continued development of reuse and recycling options. However, for countries to adequately meet these SDG targets, an important step is to understand the municipal solid waste management systems and practices, particularly those that may lead to plastic being released into the environment and identify the high priority areas to intervene. The aim of the WFD is to provide a rapid assessment methodology for mapping the flows of macro waste in a municipal solid waste management system at the city or municipality level, including quantifying the sources and fate of any plastic pollution.

WFD’s aim can be summarized into six objectives:

  1. To provide a rapid assessment of a cities or municipalities municipal solid waste management system and visualize the flows of waste, including informing the SDG 11.6.1 sub-indicators;
  2. To use observational based assessments to quantify the sources of plastic leakage into the environment from the municipal solid waste management system, and determine the eventual fate of this uncontrolled waste;
  3. To identify the high-priority sources of plastic pollution so as to make informed interventions;
  4. To allow benchmarking and comparison between cities;
  5. To run scenarios with the aim of gaining approximate insights into how proposed interventions may impact the solid waste management system and plastic pollution;
  6. To quantify the effectiveness of applied interventions


The Waste Flow Diagram maps macro plastic leakages hotspots and their flows from every stage of a Municipal solid waste management system to their fates. These fates could be plastic waste accumulation on land, leakage to water systems such as nearby pond, stream, rivers (which could bring the waste to the oceans), litter stuck in storm drains, and burning of plastic waste.

Various stages of a Municipal Solid Waste Management Systems (MSWM)


The results from WFD can be visualized through Sankey diagrams, and WFD system map. For more information on the tool and methodology, please refer to the materials provided here . Individuals, projects, or organizations interested in implementing WFD can contact the team for discussion or create an account in order to gain access to training materials. In case of any questions, please refer to our FAQ section and our Forum

Waste Flow Diagram