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Water Engineering and Development Centre

Resource details

Lessons from community-based solid waste initiatives

Author(s): Ali, Mansoor  |  Snel, Marielle  |  Woodfield, Julie (ed)

Publisher: LSHTM | WEDC
Place of publication: London and Loughborough
Year: 1999

Series: WELL Studies in Water, Sanitation and Environmental Health Task 99
Collection(s): WELL


In most towns and cities, municipal government is responsible for waste collection, transport and disposal. The rapidly expanding demands made on this formal waste management system mean that community-based, informal (unregistered and unregulated) initiatives arise.

The main lessons learned relate to a series of specific issues:

  • Community involvement can be increased by promotional activities, evidence of the efficiency of waste collection schemes, and education about the benefits they offer.
  • Sustainable waste collection schemes need strong linkages to be established between the community and the municipality. These can be achieved via legislation, discussion forums involving all stakeholders and two-way communication between the community and the municipality.
  • Financial viability is important: community-based schemes can be offered operational finance by the municipality and alternative methods of payment can be provided.
  • The inability of the poorest to pay for waste collection services can be addressed by providing alternative means of paying and by implementing low cost technologies by which the poor can manage their own waste collection.
  • The profile of waste collectors needs to be raised and their importance highlighted to the community. Greater incentives should be offered to them such as performance-related pay, and the opportunity to collect recyclable materials from sorted household waste.
  • Adequate space is required for communal bin sites; these should be situated away from residential areas in a location which is chosen by a process of consultation with all stakeholders.
  • Women, who are largely responsible for household waste management, require education about the important role of waste collectors and sweepers. Equipment issued to female municipal sweepers should be of an appropriate size and weight.
  • Appropriate equipment is necessary to collect, load and transport waste, as is protective clothing to ensure the safety of waste workers.
  • The reliable operation of primary waste collection schemes depends on convenient transfer points and the subsequent haulage of waste to disposal sites.

A number of guidance points were developed from this:

  • Communities, waste collectors and municipal government need to be motivated to participate willingly.
  • Awareness raising and education are important in changing attitudes towards the health and environmental benefits of improved waste management.
  • The success of primary collection depends upon its transfer and secondary transportation by the municipality and its agents.
  • Institutional and financial viability is crucial.
  • Collection schemes cannot be successfully operated without users being fully involved and committed.
  • Important technical details from the provision of appropriate equipment for waste collectors to the location of secondary waste collection bins should be resolved prior to the scheme's instigation.

Community based organizations (CBO)  |  Non-governmental organizations (NGO)  |  Refuse collection  |  Solid waste management