Resource Efficiency

Resource Efficiency

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    Did you know, that the Asia Pacific region

    • Needs double the quantity of material resources as input to produce each dollar of GDP, compared with the rest of the world
    • Accounts for more than 50% of all resources consumed globally
    • However, produces only about 32% of world economic output comes from the Asia-Pacific region

    Resource Efficiency can help improve this situation -  But, you might ask: What is Resource Efficiency?

    • Resource Efficiency is a very important, but relatively underutilized, concept that is essential for sustainable development
    • Resource Efficiency is about creating higher well-being and producing more goods and services, while using fewer resources and limiting harmful emissions and wastage

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    Therefore, Resource Efficiency is one of THE key approaches for improving the sustainable management of natural resources and for achieving future sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region!

    On the tab menu, you can find useful country factsheets and case studies with examples of Resource Efficiency applications for different countries.

    You are only one click away from regional challenges, policies, and initiatives, and finding opportunities for improvement, so why wait? Start now!

    Source adapted from: UNEP (2015), Resource use in the Asia-Pacific - A booklet of infrographics, United Nations Environment Programme, Bangkok.


    • Resource Efficiency is a key approach for enabling sustainable development in Asia-Pacific and for promoting the sustainable management of natural resources
    • Creating higher economic and social well-being, producing more goods and services, with fewer inputs and emissions is the way forwards for the Asia-Pacific region
    • However, to achieve this, we need drastic changes!

    HOW can we do this?

    The shift towards Resource Efficiency can be achieved in different ways. There are four main types of resources: land, material (biomass, fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metallic minerals), water, and energy. Each resource has strong linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so increasing efficiency in each of these key areas greatly helps their achievement.

    Improvements in resource efficiency in economics seem to be associated with[1]:

    • Progress in human development (measured by HDI)
    • Reduction in unemployment levels
    • Improved access to water, sanitation and energy

    We must improve efficiency across all resources holistically to accomplish the goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    There are already multiple global initiatives that are trying to help promote Resource Efficiency in the Asia-Pacific:

    • Many Green Growth concept initiatives are already in place across the Asia-Pacific region, facilitating the development towards more Resource Efficient and sustainable societies (See resources to read more).
    • The 10-Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP), a global framework of action to advance international cooperation and sustainability, sees managing Resource Efficiency as one of their most crucial policies.
    • The largest programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asia, SWITCH Asia, strives to fortify national and regional policy approaches aimed at Resource Efficiency.
    • The 7th Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development brought focus on the theme of Resource Efficiency and member states resolved to take concrete measures to advance it together throughout the region. 
    • We need macro level and sectoral policies to promote resource efficiency (The case studies and references provide details on some important policy approaches).

    However, despite regional efforts, the Asia-Pacific region has seen ever increasing resource use since 1990.

    • Domestic Material Consumption per capita has risen by 270 percent in low-and middle-income economies, as opposed to only 10 percent in the high-income ones on average.
    • Material Footprint per capita has similarly risen by almost 280 percent and 29 percent for low-middle and high-income countries, respectively.
    • However, economic output did not match with this increased usage of resources and production has expanded in more resource inefficient economies of the region
    • Since 2000, the region has witnessed declining trends in resource efficiency (in terms of material resources)

    The urgency for creating more resource efficient societies has increased with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Countries must together make a radical change in the management of their most valuable resources and their production and consumption processes. We must transform our economies to become more innovative, inclusive, and environmentally-sustainable.

    [1] Read for more details

    Closing the Loop

    This regional policy guide is an output of the Closing the Loop initiative, which targeted sustainable consumption and waste management in the Asia-Pacific region. The project was a partnership between the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Stockholm Environment Institute, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing and other stakeholders, including the municipal administrations in the two case study cities, Bangkok and Pune.

    Arising from the increasing concern about plastic waste contaminating the natural environment in Asia and the Pacific, this initiative set out to foster a development pathway that integrates the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability with the more efficient management of natural resources and a natural environment that supports human well-being and shared prosperity in Asian and Pacific urban areas. The goal was to identify a more inclusive circular economy approach to waste management. It fostered multi-stakeholder partnerships in workshops and gathered evidence in two cities – Bangkok, Thailand and Pune, India – to develop two case study reports.

    This regional guide brings together the city-specific findings as well as experiences from the Asia-Pacific region to highlight associated opportunities for fostering a more inclusive, circular waste management system and the economic, social and environmental benefits.

    The guide highlights implemented measures and their impact as well as areas needing further research and development. It focuses on the informal sector in waste management to understand the workforce-based infrastructure and thus find sustainable pathways that can support informal efforts where they are effective or improve conditions for the workers. Sustainable pathways thus include recognition of informal workers to future-proof their livelihoods and addressing plastic waste leakages to protect the environment.

    This guide will be useful to urban stakeholders wanting to develop an inclusive circular economy approach in their city: municipal administrators, waste management specialists, civil society actors active in the informal waste management sector and private sector waste managers.

    Access full case study here.

    Closing the Loop: Pune

    Management of recyclable waste in Pune, India follows a hybrid model involving informal workers and is widely considered a success story in this sector. One important factor in understanding this achievement is the city’s history of informal workers’ rights movements and civil society participation. This case study retraces plastic waste streams in the city of Pune, identifies contributions by informal economy workers to the recovery, sorting and recycling of plastic waste and provides policy insights that aim to harness the environmental benefits of a more inclusive and productive waste management model.

    The experience of the Pune municipal solid waste management model shows that informal waste workers are active and effective in recovering and valorising resources and that this kind of municipality and waste picker partnership can have positive economic, social and environmental impacts. This model is largely workforce based and undertakes recycling activities at a much lower cost than conventional or formal mechanized and centralized waste management approaches. It can also achieve a relatively significant plastic waste segregation and high recycling levels. It directly contributes to a more circular urban waste management model by recovering valuable materials (including plastic) for local and global recycling industries.

    This case study was produced under the Closing the Loop initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The initiative is gathering evidence in cities in the Asia-Pacific region in search of opportunities to return plastic resources to the production cycle by linking informal and formal waste processes. The case studies in Pune (India) and Sai Mai District, Bangkok (Thailand) were produced in close partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre and Kashtakari Panchayat – the local partner of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) in Pune.

    Access full case study here.

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    Closing the Loop: Bangkok

    Thailand is one of the five countries globally contributing the most plastic waste pollution into the oceans. Thailand has critical problems with improper waste management infrastructure, poor waste management practices and low public awareness of how or why individuals should be responsible waste generators. In the country’s large and growing capital, Bangkok, the situation is becoming increasingly acute.

    This case study explores the plastic waste value chain in Bangkok to better understand the contributions of – and links between – formal and informal actors in plastic waste management. The insights from this study hopefully will help determine a range of policy measures that work to enhance the contributions of all level of waste collectors and thus the environmental and economic benefits of an integrated plastic waste management system.

    The study centred on plastic waste management in the Bangkok metropolitan area, and specifically in Sai Mai District for more in-depth research. Sai Mai District is one of three waste collection and transportation systems run by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), with waste composition and waste stream flows comparable to many of the city’s 50 other districts.

    This case study was produced under the Closing the Loop initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The initiative is gathering evidence in cities in the Asia-Pacific region in search of opportunities to return plastic resources to the production cycle by linking informal and formal waste processes. The case studies in Sai Mai District, Bangkok (Thailand) and Pune (India) were produced in close partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre and Kashtakari Panchayat – the local partner of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) in Pune.

    Access full case study here.

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    Tools and Methodologies
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    Source adapted from: UNESCAP (2012), Low Carbon Green Growth Road Map for Asia and the Pacific, UNESCAP, Bangkok


    Integrating Resource Efficiency into national and regional planning will require strong promotion of the concept as a key enabler for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. Increasing awareness of resource efficient strategies and how to facilitate their implementation is a primary goal of this platform. It will help government officials and other stakeholders to better understand the urgency for Resource Efficiency developments in accomplishing the targets from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

    The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and partner organizations have developed various valuable resources to assist policy makers in achieving the above goals. On top of this, there are many other useful online sources through which policy makers can expand their knowledge on the topic. Below is a menu of relevant published methodologies, online platforms, and informative publications. Apart from the material accessible from the E-Learning course, these resources will serve as a means of further investigating key topics related to Resource Efficiency. These references will complement the knowledge from the course and serve as a basis for policy makers to better understand its context and necessity for future sustainable development.

    ESCAP Resource Simulation

    UNESCAP Resource Efficiency Simulation Tool (REST)

    Resource Efficiency Course

    UNESCAP / IRP Resource Efficiency E-learning Course 


    ESCAP Statistical Database


    Resource Watch
    analysing resource efficiency

    Analysing Resource Efficiency Transitions in Asia-Pacific

    green growth

    Green Growth, Resources and Resilience: Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific

    resource use in asia-pacific

    Resource use in the Asia-Pacific infographics

    shifting from quantity to quality

    Shifting from quantity to quality: Growth with equality, efficiency, sustainability and dynamism

    green growth indicators

    Green Growth Indicators: a practical approach for Asia and the Pacific

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    Low Carbon Green Growth Roadmap e-learning course

    CLOSING THE LOOP: Unlocking the informal economy in an inclusive circular economy approach

    Closing the loop: Unlocking the informal economy in an inclusive circular economy approach

    Additional Resources:

    Localising the 2030 Agenda

    UN ESCAP and UN-Habitat are implementing the project “Integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into Local Action in Support of the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Asia and the Pacific (2018 – 2021)” regionally and in five pilot cities with local partners from different stakeholder groups including local government, non-governmental and community-based organizations, academia and the private sector.

    Cities are important catalysts of change that is vital for the achievement of the SDGs by 2030 and tackle the climate crisis through SDG localization strategy with a focus on sustainable urban resources management. We can strengthen the capacities of local governments and other key urban stakeholders to implement the 2030 Agenda in the area of urban resource management by supporting processes of collaborative and adaptive urban governance through multi-stakeholder coalitions; integrated analysis and planning through systems thinking approach; and evidence-based decision-making through a data, information and evidence collection, analysis and dissemination process.

    The Sustainable Urban Resource Management (SURM) approach aims to enable cities to operate within planetary boundaries whilst fulfilling essential human needs and ensuring wellbeing and prosperity for all, minimizing the negative and maximizing the positive environmental, social, and economic impacts of urban consumption and production systems. Ultimately, SURM approach supports cities to transform from using resources in ways that are linear and inequitable to ways that are more circular and equitable.

    The SDG Localization process focused on building local capacities for sustainable urban resources management. Sustainable Urban Resource Management is an approach to transform urban consumption and production systems through interventions that are linear to circular, moving from the wasteful and harmful linear ‘take-make-dispose’ models to more circular models.

    To learn more about the project, please visit:

    Group Work

    Participants brainstorming over SDGs Cluster Analysis exercise, which considers the linkages between various SDGs in the context of SURM 

    Resource Efficiency