The Need for Accountability
Solid waste management is a municipal responsibility in nearly all developing countries. The institutions that provide the service typically need to be restructured so that they are more accountable and transparent to the residents and business establishments they serve. Instead of being solid waste units buried under public health departments, they should be upgraded to departments and placed directly under the management of engineers that are trained in systems design and operations rationalization. Organizational development support would typically include improved job descriptions, training, operations rationalization, and reduction of labor redundancy. Private sector involvement (see useful links below) to introduce competitive forces that enhance productivity might also be a part of revised institutional arrangements.
The Need for Practical yet Efficient Collection of Waste
For collection (pdf) of wastes, there are virtually no economies-of-scale. Primary collection with push carts might serve neighborhoods of hundreds of people, while large compaction trucks might serve several tens of thousands of people. Monitoring of operations is therefore commonly decentralized to neighborhood and district levels, while overall planning and rationalization of city-wide collection is done on the municipal level. Procurement of the fleet is usually best done at the municipal level, because of the technical competence needed for writing good specifications and the benefits of buying in large lots.
The Use of Alternative or Regional Approaches in Waste Disposal
For disposal of wastes, there are substantial economies-of-scale. Landfill equipment typically requires the waste of several hundred thousand residents to be fully utilized in a daily shift. This might mean that small municipalities should join together to obtain cost-effective disposal systems. Inter-municipal agreements are commonly used to implement disposal facilities that handle multiple municipalities. Sometimes, regional disposal authorities are established (see presentation on Solid Waste Sanitary Landfill Primer (pdf)). One advantage of a regional disposal authority is that it might have greater ability to develop markets for optimizing recycling and resource recovery as part of the regional disposal facility. If broadly defined in its founding statutes, the regional disposal authority might also be authorized to handle special wastes, including health care wastes.
How to Capture Economies of Scale
In order to capture the economies-of-scale of regional solid waste disposal facilities, it is typically necessary to implement transfer stations (see presentations on Transfer Station Design Concepts for Developing Countries (pdf) and Uzbekistan: Tashkent Solid Waste Management Project: Transfer Stations (pdf)) and long-distance haul in large-capacity transfer vehicles (rather than direct haul in collection trucks). Institutionally, it might be best for the central city to implement the transfer facilities and charge tipping fees to the smaller surrounding municipalities. However, it might be attractive to have an inter-municipal organization created, such as a solid waste authority, to implement the transfer systems along with the disposal facilities.