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Transitioning to a Circular Economy

Chapter 4 | Factors of Effectiveness


Four main categories of factors were found to have a strong, often limiting, influence on the effectiveness of the World Bank Group’s municipal solid waste management (MSWM) support.

Nature of Bank Group engagement. Extended, well-sequenced, and coherent country engagement that includes support for key policy reforms and investment has been effective in helping countries build an integrated approach to MSWM incrementally. For this reason, improved MSWM is more likely to be achieved when MSWM is the focus of a core project rather than when it is included as a smaller project component. However, the evaluation found few examples of such types of country engagements, mainly in upper-middle-income countries.

Commitment and ability of governments to finance MSWM services sustainably. The inability of governments to ensure sustainable financing is a main constraint on providing adequate MSWM services. This inability can arise at any layer of government (national, provincial, or local), mainly because of lack of political commitment or competing demands for public financing.

Accountability for providing adequate and sustainable services. A lack of transparency and vested interests lodged within service provision for collection and transport can constrain the Bank Group’s MSWM operations. Efforts to achieve accountability by addressing political economy challenges, increasing awareness, and supporting behavior change among national governments, local governments, and waste generators can contribute to success.

Land availability. The ability to acquire land for solid waste infrastructure is a systematic constraint across the portfolio, reducing the World Bank’s ability to provide support to clients. The constraint is partially attributable to the not-in-my-backyard phenomenon—the generalized opposition of neighboring populations and local governments to siting landfills (or other infrastructure) within their jurisdictions.

This chapter focuses on four factors that have influenced the effectiveness of the Bank Group’s MSWM support. These factors are (i) the nature of World Bank support in terms of continuity, coverage, and coherence; (ii) government commitment to ensuring financial sustainability of MSWM; (iii) local governments’ accountability for providing adequate and sustainable MSWM services; and (iv) land availability and the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon (the generalized opposition of neighboring populations and local governments to siting landfills [or other infrastructure] within their jurisdictions).

Nature of World Bank Engagement

Long-term, well-sequenced, and coherent engagement across the evaluation pillars was linked to positive MSWM outcomes. The association shows that to achieve effective MSWM at scale, the Bank Group needs to take an integrated approach that ensures that all phases of the MSWM process are developed over time and strategically. Extended, well-sequenced, and coherent country engagement that includes support for key policy reforms and investment has been effective in helping countries build an integrated approach to MSWM incrementally. These sequenced efforts are linked to wider scope and better performance in access, service delivery, and financial sustainability. The World Bank provided this type of sustained support through a combination of analytics, DPLs, investments, and Program-for-Results financing in five economies (Colombia, Liberia, Maldives, Morocco, and West Bank and Gaza) for more than a decade. In these cases, MSWM outcomes were achieved eventually, partly because there was time to learn from and correct for technical and political challenges (see examples in box 4.1). These engagements show that longer-term engagement through DPLs and investments helps to cover a wider range of issues across the two pillars. The World Bank’s consistency and commitment has provided the time needed for institutions to adapt and for key reforms and behaviors to take hold. DPLs have proved important in this regard, but sustained engagement can also occur through a single well-considered long-term investment.

Box 4.1. Positive Municipal Solid Waste Management Outcomes from Sustained Engagement

The World Bank supported municipal solid waste management in Colombia (through three investment project financing projects and two programmatic series of development policy loans [DPLs] since 2005) and Morocco (through four DPLs during 2009–15) with a wide coverage of issues that have yielded several positive results and set the stage for continued transformation of the sector.

In Colombia, the World Bank’s support since 2005 has contributed to the development of circular economy policies—the first of their kind in Latin America. The key areas of World Bank engagement have been disposal waste management, recycling, and social inclusion. In 2005, most of the waste generated in the country was disposed of in open dumps or uncontrolled landfills. The World Bank supported policy and regulatory measures, the implementation of integrated solid waste management plans mandated for municipalities, and the regionalization of disposal arrangements. The latest results show that 90 percent of all municipalities are disposing of solid waste adequately, compared with 60 percent in 2009. The second DPL series supports the country’s ambitious target of increasing recycling and reuse of waste materials from 8.7 percent in 2019 to 17.9 percent by 2030. The World Bank’s support was instrumental in formalizing the role of waste pickers.

In Morocco, a World Bank–supported assessment of the costs of environmental degradation and the analytical basis for the Solid Waste Law set the stage for World Bank support through a series of programmatic DPLs. They contributed to the implementation of the three-phase, 15-year National Solid Waste Program with measurable targets, helping to increase the waste collection rate to 96 percent by 2020. About 160 municipalities have delegated management of collection services to 18 private companies. A strong start was made in building new controlled landfills and rehabilitating illegal dumps, though current achievements are lagging targets: 26 controlled landfills of 80 planned for the end of 2022 and 60 illegal dumps rehabilitated against 300 targeted by the end of 2020. Citizen engagement reports are being implemented in cities through digital development platforms. Allocations from the central budget based on transparent and objective criteria were instrumental in improved municipal solid waste management performance. The municipalities’ financial and technical capacity issues that could not be addressed adequately under the DPL series are now supported through the ongoing Local Government Support Program-for-Results Project.

Source: Independent Evaluation Group.

Even strategically important investments can be insufficient if limited to part of the MSWM value chain. The failure to address essential issues at any point along the waste value chain (from waste collection to transport to final disposal) undermines the entire chain’s effectiveness. Solutions to integrate the interrelated processes in the solid waste management chain are critical. Azerbaijan is the best example of the need to approach MSWM at the system level (box 4.2).

Box 4.2. Developing Integrated Waste Value Chains: Azerbaijan

The World Bank’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Project (2008–18) in Azerbaijan contributed to improved management of the municipal solid waste sector in Greater Baku and other parts of the country in the critical areas of collection, disposal, institutional reform, policy and regulatory environment, financial sustainability, and social inclusion. The project helped transform the city dump into a well-managed sanitary landfill (Balakhani), closed informal dumpsites (totaling 143 hectares), and increased access to collection services to an additional 800,000 residents in the peri-urban areas of Baku. The project also financed the feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments needed to introduce transfer stations to maintain an effective enhanced waste collection and disposal system.

Nevertheless, illegal dumping in Baku—which continues unabated—is undermining the efficiency with which a large share of the waste can be processed, treated, or recycled, and continues to pose environmental and health risks. Despite the project’s achievements, nearly 50 percent of the waste collected in Greater Baku fails to reach the authorized treatment and disposal facilities, and a significant proportion of the collected waste is dumped informally. This undermines capacity use at treatment and disposal facilities, reducing their efficiency and entailing high capital and operating costs. This situation is largely attributable to the nonavailability of waste transfer facilities in Greater Baku, a lack of financial incentives for operators to deliver waste to the new treatment and disposal facilities, and a lack of effective control mechanisms and enforcement. This experience underlines the criticality of integrating the interrelated processes in the solid waste management chain.

Source: World Bank 2021a.

Planned outcomes are likely to be better achieved in dedicated projects than in part-MSWM projects. There were 25 dedicated MSWM projects in the World Bank portfolio (projects having nearly 100 percent of project commitments dedicated to MSWM objectives), with $611 million in commitments. By contrast, there were 68 part-MSWM projects (projects with only one or two generally small MSWM components), with net MSWM commitments of $1.83 billion, or three times that of the dedicated projects. Dedicated projects mostly had wider scope in objectives and geographical coverage than part-MSWM projects. Among closed and evaluated projects, the percentage of dedicated projects that had moderately satisfactory or better outcomes (73 percent) was significantly higher than the performance of MSWM components of the part-MSWM projects (62 percent; table 4.1).

Table 4.1. Outcome Achievement in Core MSWM Projects versus Part-MSWM Projects

Solid Waste Management Content

All Projects


World Bank Commitment

(US$, millions)

Closed and Evaluated Projects


Projects with MS+ Outcome Ratinga



Dedicated MSWM projectsb






Part-MSWM projectsc












Source: Independent Evaluation Group.

Note: MS+ = moderately satisfactory or better; MSWM = municipal solid waste management.a. Ratings were derived by analyzing key performance indicators at the project level for dedicated projects and at the component level for part-MSWM projects.b. A dedicated MSWM project has nearly 100 percent of project commitment for MSWM objectives.c. A part-MSWM project has MSWM as one of several sector components and commitment ranges between 5 and 50 percent of project commitment.d. Hazardous, health, and industrial waste projects.

Part-MSWM projects perform especially poorly when they have small, stand-alone components. The likelihood is high that these components will be stalled, only partially completed, or dropped. For instance, in Egypt’s Integrated Irrigation Improvement and Management Project, the planned piloting of collection and disposal of solid wastes in two command areas did not make progress, though the overall project outcome rating was moderately satisfactory. In Peru’s Cusco Regional Development Project and Vilcanota Valley Rehabilitation and Management Project, there was no progress in MSWM components that were expected to contribute to MSWM and tourism development. In Brazil’s São Luís Municipal Adaptable Program Loan 4 Project, two components covering construction of a hydraulic landfill were dropped, along with other MSWM activities related to rehabilitating areas of environmental value to improve the quality of water flowing to Bacanga Lake. In Côte d’Ivoire’s Emergency Urban Infrastructure Emergency Recovery Loan Project, none of the planned 25 transfer stations were pursued.

However, part-MSWM projects can have a crucial role in jumpstarting engagement with a borrower. This was the intention in Nigeria’s Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project that contained a component for policy dialogue on waste management. However, the waste management component did not make progress because of reduced government commitment during implementation. Under Egypt’s Enhanced Water Resources Management Project, there was consensus that brought MSWM and industrial wastewater management to the forefront of integrated water resources management, together with improved irrigation and drainage—an innovative combination for the country.

Support to solid waste management through components in the context of flood prevention is strategically important. As outlined in IEG’s urban resilience evaluation (World Bank 2019), targeted support to reduce clogging of waterways and pumping stations to enable proper drainage is an integral part of broader support to flood protection projects. Examples include the support to reduce solid waste around flood pumping stations in the Metro Manila Flood Management Project and the Greater Accra Resilient and Integrated Development Project, in which components target, among other items, solid waste management in low-income or informal communities of the Odaw Basin that contribute the highest share of solid waste in the primary Odaw Channel.

Commitment and Ability of Governments to Ensure Financial Sustainability

The lack of government commitment to ensure sustainable financing is one of the main constraints on providing adequate MSWM services. The inability to ensure sustainable financing can arise at any layer of government (national, provincial, or local) and may be an inability to commit to sustainable financing or to follow through on such a commitment through electoral cycles. Several World Bank projects included components for ensuring financial sustainability of MSWM services through arrangements for improved cost recovery via user fees or tariffs, sometimes supplemented by earmarked municipal revenues or budget transfers from provincial or central governments. In some cases, the expected results were not achieved at project completion, and even where favorable results were achieved, the improvements were often not sustained. For instance, data and feedback from officials through case study discussions for Azerbaijan, Morocco, and West Bank and Gaza suggest that cost recovery has declined since project completion. This trend, along with the reduction or discontinuation of budget transfers to compensate for the shortfall, has implications for solid waste management services and outcomes. In Morocco and West Bank and Gaza, reduced resources for upkeep and expansion of sanitary landfills are resulting in increasing problems of leachate contaminating soil and water. In other cases, such as in Azerbaijan, declining cost recovery affects waste collection and transport, leading to a relapse into the practice of disposing of waste in open dumps.

Accountability for Providing Adequate and Sustainable Services

Successful Bank Group MSWM operations often try to address political economy challenges. Political economy challenges in the MSWM sector often include a lack of transparency and vested interests that are lodged within service provision for collection and transport. The case studies revealed that the World Bank often works through informal policy dialogue to address political economy challenges that impede MSWM progress. In Morocco, the World Bank initiated a dialogue in 2009 on the issues of political economy surrounding the MSWM sector by highlighting the negative impacts from inadequate waste management and the feasible solutions. This helped get the government’s buy-in for a DPL series that addressed the range of MSWM issues with multiple national, provincial, and local actors. In West Bank and Gaza, the World Bank tackled a complex geopolitical context and conflict situation by having all parties focus on the positive environmental and health impacts that would be obtained from closing open dumpsites and building a sanitary landfill serviced by improved waste collection and transport. Box 4.3 describes contrasting experiences in two conflict-affected economies: Liberia and West Bank and Gaza.

Box 4.3. Municipal Solid Waste Management in Conflict-Affected Economies: Lessons from World Bank Engagements in Liberia and West Bank and Gaza

Conflict-affected economies face severe constraints caused by fragile institutions and recurring conflicts that create uncertainty and disruptions in normal economic activities. However, solid waste generation continues unabated. An implication is that the larger the urban populations in these economies, the greater the visibility of littering and chronic land and water pollution attributable to inadequate solid waste management. The Independent Evaluation Group reviewed the experiences of Liberia and West Bank and Gaza as a part of this evaluation, and the following is a summary of some key lessons.

The constraints faced by the two economies are a study in contrasts. Liberia, which was ravaged by decades-long conflicts, faces a trifecta of extreme poverty, lack of institutional capacity, and inadequate financial resources. In West Bank and Gaza, recurrent armed conflicts destroy infrastructure and create long-term uncertainty about how to manage solid waste sustainably. In both situations, the role of donor agencies led by the World Bank Group has been critical, not only through long-term commitment of project investments and technical assistance but through the signaling to local stakeholders of the international community’s sustained commitment.

In Monrovia, World Bank–led donor support institutionalized primary garbage collection as a business through community-based enterprises (small businesses with fixed concession areas), with basic training on collecting domestic waste as a service for fees. In the West Bank, Joint Service Councils pooled the risks of small, local governments to achieve an overall collection rate of 83 percent in the communities. In addition, the Bank Group provided technical assistance through World Bank and International Finance Corporation advisory services and analytics, which developed a public-private partnership framework, drafted contractual documents, and financed a solid waste management output-based aid pilot in the West Bank to support landfill and waste management services. The resulting investments in the Hebron sanitary landfill attracted private sector participation, despite the fragility of the policy environment. Through proven professional management, the services even generated a peace dividend by receiving waste from Israeli settler communities in exchange for tipping fees.

Sources: World Bank 2021c, 2021e.

Accountability for service delivery is associated with positive MSWM outcomes. Addressing political economy issues in the MSWM sector requires paying attention to aspects of monitoring for enhanced accountability across value chain actors. In most client countries, the ability to monitor MSWM service delivery and thus achieve accountability among actors along the MSWM value chain is weak. There are good practice examples in World Bank–supported projects in China, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, and Tunisia, where the projects financed innovative technological applications to support more effective monitoring to achieve greater accountability. These include support for GPS trackers for trucks, cell phone apps, and internet-based applications for monitoring service delivery and receiving citizen feedback. In Pakistan, this support for enhanced monitoring—through a complaint tracking system—facilitated the systematic organization and standardization of complaint information, which led to increased redress of complaints for more effective service delivery. But too often, insufficient arrangements for monitoring and evaluation of service delivery and impacts from MSWM make it difficult to assign accountability and close the feedback loop for incentivizing improved performance.

Many political economy challenges have inhibited success in the IFC advisory services portfolio. These include a lack of government commitment or effective collaboration across different levels of government (for example, with local entities) and the difficulty of sustaining commitment across administrations or in the absence of champions. For example, in Samoa, after the chief executive officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment died, there was lack of consensus in the government on how to move forward with the project, partly because of the opposition expressed by local waste collection contractors. In Kosovo, a change of key ministers and a loss of political champions on municipal waste disposal issues caused IFC to exit the project. In Albania, the project was put on hold partly because of parliamentary elections but also because the responsibility for waste disposal infrastructure was transferred to the Ministry of Environment, which wanted to promote incineration as the main waste treatment solution. IFC did not agree, and the project did not move forward. The key challenges limiting the support in LICs include client governments’ lack of awareness of waste issues; lack of strategies for the sector; and lack of appropriate policies, regulations, and institutional capacity (Guerrero, Maas, and Hogland 2013). These conditions foster an environment for open dumping and low willingness to pay for services that limits the feasibility of financial support for MSWM initiatives.

Increased awareness and efforts to support behavior change among national governments, local governments, and waste generators (households and enterprises) help MSWM projects succeed. The World Bank’s attention to mechanisms for awareness raising and a recognition that reforms require behavioral change across actors within the MSWM value chain are central to the achievement of MSWM interim outcomes in a few economies (such as Argentina, Benin, Egypt, and West Bank and Gaza). In those cases, the World Bank achieved positive MSWM results by increasing public awareness about the negative effects of open dumping. Awareness-raising campaigns helped prompt public demand for better solid waste collection. Thus, with better collection, residents were willing to pay. Additionally, as shown in chapter 3, IFC advisory services work supporting a pan-India awareness campaign that was delivered through social media and radio created broader awareness across both consumers and local companies about the hazards of e-waste. In several countries where waste generators’ behavior was not addressed (for example, Azerbaijan, Maldives, and Morocco), there was a relapse into old ways of open dumping that undermined progress in the sector.

Land Availability

Inability to acquire land for solid waste infrastructure has limited the World Bank’s support to clients. Establishing sustainable solid waste management requires a sustained effort to address complexities related to interjurisdictional governance, the NIMBY phenomenon, integration of the informal sector, and low willingness to pay, among other factors. Most projects identify land acquisition as a constraint in siting infrastructure. In Tunisia’s Sustainable Municipal Solid Waste Management Project, construction was stopped after the 2011 revolution because of strong opposition from nearby communities. Most case studies conducted for this evaluation point to challenges in acquiring land for landfills and other infrastructure. The NIMBY phenomenon was clearly articulated with respect to Mitubiri under Kenya’s Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project. Political rivals used the opportunity to fan residents’ discontent, requiring a minister to intervene to temporarily stop the works. Complexities in land acquisition were experienced in World Bank support to Azerbaijan, Colombia, and Morocco, where finalizing land acquisition for transfer stations and landfills contributed to project implementation delays. A positive example is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Solid Waste Management II Project, under which there was increased support to regional sanitary landfills as evidenced by the percentage of the local population agreeing to the location of landfill sites. As pointed out in the World Bank report (2021d), unreliable land administration, inadequate urban planning, and poorly functioning land markets in rapidly urbanizing countries greatly complicate the consolidation of land parcels at a reasonable cost to enable siting large-scale public infrastructure such as landfills and transfer stations.