Community-based waste management systems for low-income areas

Rapid global urbanization has caused a number of densely packed informal settlements to form in many low-income countries in the world. The unsanitary conditions in such communities are a major cause of health degradation for the inhabitants of such communities. Waste infrastructure and waste treatment services are necessary facilities, which most of those communities lack. 
In recognition of the structural challenges inherent to delivering waste services in low-income areas and informal settlements, many cities in Africa are increasingly looking toward community-based models. The "Community-based waste management systems (CBWMS)" project was implemented as a solution for this impending issue. This project promoted local empowerment and was designed around the needs and preferences of the local community, tailoring solutions to local contexts and working in close collaboration with local stakeholders.


Promote community-based waste management systems to empower the local communities and create a locally contextualized waste collection system designed around the needs and preferences of the local community.

What we are doing

Assistance was provided to the City of Freetown, Sierra Leone, as part of the targeted technical assistance given to six cities as part of the Waste Finance Programme. After a thorough assessment, it was determined that the assistance to be provided to Freetown would be to pilot community-based waste management in two hard-to-reach areas. This assistance was provided by C40 Cities on behalf of CCAC. The project received co-funding from the Citi-Foundation

Over the three-month engagement, the following activities were carried out. 

The first step was to create a joint project group comprised of members from the Waste and Flooding focal points in the area. Once the project team agreed on the two targeted HTRA, the next step was to establish relations with the local communities and promote their buy-in and participation. This entailed small meetings with representatives from different groups such as informal waste collectors, small-scale recyclers, schools, elders, and NGOs. 

Next, basic communication material to support the implementation of the project, both from a buy-in perspective and from a capacity-building perspective was created. Basic visual aids and messaging were also delivered about strategies such as how to segregate waste at home and how to compost.  

Once the project team defined the components of the system, it was possible to size the project. This included defining for example how many and which households would be included, how many waste collectors are necessary, where small-scale composting, etc.  

The final step was to develop a financial model. Any waste management system requires the payment of fees by the service users. However, if the waste is collected by local waste collectors with simple equipment and is transported for a short distance to a composting or sorting facility, then costs will be much lower. Thus, the waste fees will be much less than the waste fees charged by larger waste companies.

Why we are doing this work

Due to rapid urbanization, informal settlements with poor access to basic infrastructures including roads, waste bins, water, sewage, and electricity have spread across many global south cities. Most of these settlements are densely populated and comprised of narrow streets that don’t allow access for wide vehicles. All these factors hinder the delivery of ‘traditional’ waste collection and treatment services that require large and cumbersome trucks and roadside equipment. Moreover, traditional waste systems necessarily charge a fee for the service, which in most cases, such informal settlements cannot afford.  

Pollutants (SLCPs)