Market Insights: Waste Management

The Problem - The Solutions - Business and Financing Models

The Problem

As urban centers around the world increase in population and density, the waste produced in each city has also increased. Cities regularly encounter challenges related to their ability to scale waste collection, recycling and composting. Increased interest in sustainability has led cities to wonder how waste can be effectively diverted from landfills in large quantities, how citizens can be encouraged to recycle, and how the waste management pipeline can be made more energy-efficient. Effective waste management requires coordination from a variety of stakeholders. Large cities and metropolitan areas need to work collaboratively and integrate policy and procedures across municipalities.

The Solutions

Effective ways of tackling the waste management challenge include economic incentives and innovative finance mechanisms to encourage waste reduction, recycling and composting.  Scroll down to see examples of how cities around the world are making it easy for residents to compost and recycle, streamlining waste management processes, and creating economic incentives for sustainable waste management.

Foster a comprehensive waste management system across municipalities in the metropolitan area.

Effective waste management requires coordination across multiple stakeholders: diverse government agencies, private companies, waste collectors and residents. This requires analysis, dialogue and a collaborative approach.


With its Zero Waste Program, Capannori, Italy is taking a proactive, holistic approach and involving residents in all stages of policy development. Capannori has one of the highest municipal recycling rates in Europe. The town set up the first Zero Waste Research Centre in Europe, where waste experts identify what is still being thrown in grey residual waste bags and come up with solutions.

In June 2012, a cooperation agreement was signed among 43 municipalities in the Metropolitan Region and in the Metropolitan Belt of Belo Horizonte for the shared management of the transshipment, treatment, and final disposal of urban solid waste. A public-private-partnership there promotes reusing and recycling, increases energy production – through methane gas, fuel derived from the waste – and stimulates the socio-productive inclusion of trash pickers.

In the United Kingdom, many local authorities are moving away from traditional paper based maps and are using digital datasets to underpin their activity. This data is available through the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), which allows geographic information to be shared between all public sector organizations.

Citymart BidSpark matched 308 solutions for this approach.

Innovative waste management infrastructure and technology solutions.

From solutions to optimize waste collection (sensors on trucks or trash bins), to waste-to-energy schemes, technology has great potential to improve waste management.


Santa Monica, California ordered 100 “near zero” natural gas engines for its bus fleet, transitioning the City’s famous Big Blue Buses (BBB) to Redeem, Clean Energy’s renewable natural gas fuel (RNG). Sourced from 100% renewable biomethane, which captures and processes the biogas that occurs naturally in the breakdown of organic waste in landfills, Redeem™ reduced the Big Blue Bus fleet’s carbon footprint by nearly 90%.

The Loading Dock (TLD), a non-profit organization in Baltimore, created a scheme to redistribute discarded and surplus building material. Operating out of a 42,000 sq. ft. warehouse in southeast Baltimore, TLD serves as the state's central clearinghouse for salvaged surplus building materials that are otherwise headed for landfills and redistributes them. Each year, TLD prevents approximately 24,000 gallons of paint and other toxic elements such as caulk, adhesives, stains and sealers from reaching landfills.

The GreenQ ‘Internet of Garbage’ solution was developed to optimize mass waste collection. The GreenTrack monitoring device weighs incoming waste and predicts the garbage production rate, improving every aspect of waste collection from scheduling and routing to major fleet vehicle decisions and contract optimization. Using the GreenTrack system brings about a 30% - 40% reduction in truck mileage, fuel savings, manpower and work time, and a major reduction in emissions. 

Citymart BidSpark matched 211 companies for this approach.

Economic incentives and innovative finance mechanisms for effective waste management.

Lessons are drawn from economic incentives and innovative finance mechanisms for waste management, such as “waste banks”, pay-as-you-throw schemes, and results based financing models. There are also approaches that rely on intrinsic and emotional incentives to encourage behavior change and gamification.


The County of Aschaffenburg in Germany (32 municipalities) has one of the highest recorded rates of recyclables collection (86%) and one of the lowest recorded rates of residual waste generation thanks to its Pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) system.

Ashoka Fellow Mathew Jose helped the recycling industry in India meet its supply gap by creating a new system of emotional rewards and intrinsic incentives that get citizens and children to separate and aggregate waste. This approach has resulted in an efficient value chain for recycling that increases income of waste collectors and helps the recycling industry reach its potential.

Ciudad Saludable employs waste collectors in Latin America and India, providing sustainable employment for thousands of people and improving health and living conditions for millions of residents.

Antofagasta, Chile, ran a global challenge in search of solutions that could make the city cleaner by promoting environmental awareness, encouraging citizens to create less waste, and catalyzing participation in waste management at every level of government. The winners included Reciclapp, which connects waste collectors to guaranteed pickup points, and Eco Blocks and Tiles, a social enterprise that manufactures alternative building products using recycled waste.

Citymart BidSpark matched 102 companies for this approach.

Making recycling and composting accessible to residents.

Residents of cities are often unaware of how or where to recycle or compost. Besides providing information and raising awareness through education campaigns, cities can do more to help residents to engage in those practices. Solutions may be technological, such as mobile apps to understand collection times or schedule a pick-up service, or they may be as simple as providing carts for composting or increasing the number of facilities and green points.


The City of Boston’s (USA) website Boston About Results (BAR) and the Citizen Insight mobile app let Bostonians view statistics on hundreds of different data points, from the average number of days to resolve resident requests for missed trash to the percent of resident requests for recycling containers.

Denver’s Compost Collection Program makes composting household organic material as easy as recycling, by providing a green cart that is collected weekly. Households separate out organic material like yard debris, food scraps and non-recyclable paper and place them in the green cart instead of the trash. The organic material collected is sent to a commercial facility where it gets turned into a high quality soil amendment known as compost.

The City of San Jose’s website (USA) allows citizens to find online the collection schedule, learn what is acceptable in the recycling cart, find the date for neighborhood cleanup events, request a large item pickup, report a missed garbage pickup and request a cart replacement or repair, among other services.

Stockholm’s Biochar Project aims to reduce carbon emissions by enabling citizens to be part of carbon sequestration. Residents provide plant waste, which is used to produce biochar – a charcoal-like substance that can sequester carbon in soil for thousands of years. In addition, byproducts of the process can be used to generate energy for the city’s district heating system.

Citymart BidSpark matched 154 companies for this approach.

Institute programs to educate residents and raise awareness about sustainability

Messages promoting waste reduction, discouraging illegal dumping and encouraging residents to keep the city clean can be conveyed to the public in a variety of different ways. In addition, effective communication of recycling and waste pickup services offered by the city is essential to better inform and engage residents. 

EcoSchools by The Foundation for Environmental Education offers young people the opportunity to actively protect their environments. It starts in the classroom: students have a say in the environmental management policies of their schools, and they’re rewarded with recognition for their sustainable activities. The program offers a path towards improving the environment in both the school and the local community while having a life-long positive impact on the lives of young people.

Zero Waste Scotland developed Zero Waste Communications Guidance, a practical guide for local governments to improve recycling performance through effective communications with residents. It includes useful information on branding and messaging, strategy and communication methods, campaign activities, and other strategies for increasing citizen sustainability participation.

KESAB environmental solutions has been delivering litter awareness campaigns since its inception. Campaigns can be statewide or localized to an area of concern. KESAB programs are based on anti-littering messages developed through social research.

Business and Financing Models

Not every innovative solution requires a large financial investment. In addition to proven funding models like public-private partnerships, cities can also deploy solutions that improve citizens’ lives while costing taxpayers almost nothing.

Public-Private Partnerships: Instead of purchasing software for large one-time charge, governments or businesses pay a regular fee for use of a software product

Business to Government (B2G): Vendors will look for government revenue to sustain their solutions

Advertising-funded: Solutions are free or low-cost for customers, who see advertisements instead of paying the full cost of the product.

Software as a Service (SaaS): Instead of purchasing software for large one-time charge, governments or businesses pay a regular fee for use of a software product

Open Source: Use products developed for free use by individual technologists and groups of developers in pursuit of the common good.

Volunteering: Deploy solutions that leverage citizens’ willingness to work for meaningful causes, donating their time and energy for a worthy goal.