Mani Nepal, Apsara Karki Nepal, Madan S. Khadayat, Rajesh K. Rai, Priya Shyamsundar & E. Somanathan, Low-Cost Strategies to Improve Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries: Experimental Evidence from Nepal. Environ Resource Econ (2022)
Many cities in developing countries lack adequate drainage and waste management infrastructure. Consequently, city residents face economic and health impacts from flooding and waterlogging, which are aggravated by solid waste infiltrating and blocking drains. City governments have recourse to two strategies to address these problems: a) ‘hard’ infrastructure-related interventions through investment in the expansion of drainage and waste transportation networks; and/or, b) ‘soft’, low-cost behavioural interventions that encourage city residents to change waste disposal practices. This research examines whether behavioural interventions, such as information and awareness raising alongside provision of inexpensive street waste bins, can improve waste management in the city. We undertook a cluster randomized controlled trial study in Bharatpur, Nepal, where one group of households was treated with a soft, low-cost intervention (information and street waste bins) while the control group of households did not receive the intervention. We econometrically compared baseline indicators – perceived neighbourhood cleanliness, household waste disposal methods, and at-source waste segregation – from a pre-intervention survey with data from two rounds of post-intervention surveys. Results from analysing household panel data indicate that the intervention increased neighbourhood cleanliness and motivated the treated households to dispose their waste properly through waste collectors. The intervention, however, did not increase household waste segregation at source, which is possibly because of municipal waste collectors mixing segregated and non-segregated waste during collection. At-source segregation, a pre-requisite for efficiently managing municipal solid waste, may improve if municipalities arrange to collect and manage degradable and non-degradable waste separately.