Vientiane Capital Km32 landfill site as of today, some workers are separating plastic bottles, glass, and metal from the piles of mixed trash. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR

It is a short drive, about 20 minutes, from the city center of Vientiane to its suburb, in Xaythany district. As the population and traffic drop away, one might expect to see greener, cleaner  neighbourhoods. But in fact, the opposite is true. Now city officials are grappling with how to combat a growing garbage problem.

Mounds of trash dot open fields, while some piles lie burning by the roadside.  Clouds of acrid smoke drift across residential blocks choking residents and children who play in these fields.