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Turning Waste into Opportunity

How Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is Transforming Solid Waste Management through Governance Reforms

In the picturesque landscapes of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), municipal authorities grapple with a pressing challenge: effectively managing the ever-increasing volume of solid waste. Recent estimates[1] indicate that approximately six million tonnes of waste are generated annually in KP. Alarmingly, 80% of the region lacks efficient waste management systems, resulting in streets strewn with refuse and clogged drainage systems.

The situation is exacerbated by improper waste disposal practices and the absence of segregation between green and recyclable waste. Overburdened landfills spill beyond capacity, contaminating nearby water sources and contributing to heightened greenhouse gas emissions as well as water-borne diseases. Given Pakistan’s susceptibility to climate-related disasters, addressing these threats becomes pivotal in mitigating climate change. This challenge reverberates through the valleys, calling for transformative action. Recognising the magnitude of this issue, the Sub-National Governance programme [2](SNG), in collaboration with the Local Government, Elections, and Rural Development (LGERD) department, devised an innovative engagement strategy. This strategy adopts an ‘end-to-end policy cycle’ approach to support solid waste management. The comprehensive plan encompasses needs assessment, strategic planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and course correction. To pilot this holistic waste management approach, SNG partnered with local governments in two KP municipalities: Bahrain and Babuzai.


During the initial phase, SNG conducted an exhaustive needs assessment, revealing a myriad of challenges. These included outdated collection practices, improper disposal methods, insufficient budget allocations for waste management, and weak institutional capacity with inadequate coordination among various parts of waste management operations.

Community Partnership and Acceptance

Active stakeholder involvement, coupled with commitment from stakeholders at all levels, empowered the piloting municipal entities to embrace comprehensive waste management practices. The pivotal role of community partnership in this initiative cannot be overstated.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Municipal waste collector goes door to door to collect household trash

The introduction of door-to-door waste collection yielded immediate results in service delivery. Beyond merely cleaning the streets, this approach encouraged communities to take ownership of waste management within their residential areas. The ripple effect began at the household level and swiftly extended to cover the hospitality sector and other commercial establishments.

In 2022, Bahrain’s Municipal Authority initiated waste collection services for 100 households, a programme that rapidly expanded to serve over 1,200 households. The ambitious goal is to reach 4,000 households and all commercial entities by end-2024. Similarly, in Babuzai, an additional 5,000 households now benefit from improved waste services, reflecting a notable increase in overall satisfaction and willingness to contribute financially.

Waste Segregation and Technological Enhancements

To tackle the systemic challenges of waste mismanagement, the SNG programme introduced effective waste segregation techniques. These methods involve categorising waste into organic, recyclable, and residual components. Additionally, municipal workers received training to safely handle and segregate solid waste.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Waste is segregated, separating out recyclable waste and green waste, the latter for composting

Drawing insights from willingness-to-pay studies, a modest service charge was imposed to partially recover the cost of service delivery. The introduction of solid waste charges, and the resulting revenue stream, contribute to a self-sustaining waste management system. A key short-term objective is to recover 50% of the employment costs of a sanitary worker for every 100 households in the pilot area, eventually extending to cover salaries for all sanitary workers.

Scaling Up and Future Prospects

The impact has been significant: satisfaction levels and willingness to pay in the target areas have surged by 40% and 70%, respectively. This achievement is particularly remarkable considering that residents from authorised tax-free zones, who traditionally do not pay for public services, willingly contributed to solid waste collection charges. Abdul Wadood, a long-time resident, emphasises the importance of continuity in the door-to-door waste collection service, which has not only improved hygiene but also reduced diseases in the area. The remarkable success achieved in waste management has translated into tangible financial gains, particularly for the Babuzai Water and Sanitation Services Company (WSSC), our second pilot site. For the first time, WSSC’s revenues have crossed the PKR 100 million mark.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Scavengers pick through solid waste to collect recyclable materials which they can sell

An innovative approach has been to associate informal scavengers to fill the gaps where sanitary workers cannot fully cope with the segregation workload. Partnering with informal scavengers will protect their livelihoods and ensure inclusivity in the management of solid waste. Furthermore, the door-to-door waste collection initiative has yielded multifaceted benefits. Beyond cleaning dump sites, it has transformed previously unusable land into valuable real estate for shops and storehouses. Witnessing these tangible improvements, communities have rallied in large numbers to support this transformative initiative.

Sustainable Future and Collaboration

Waste segregation has emerged as a pivotal strategy, significantly extending the lifespan of landfill sites. Previously limited to a mere five years, these sites now project a life span of 10 to 15 years. Trained workers meticulously separate reusable materials, while the sale of recyclable waste further bolsters the initiative’s environmental resilience.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Scavengers pick through solid waste to collect recyclable materials which they can sell

In the context of solid waste collection in Babuzai, a significant leap occurred with the deployment of tracking devices on the garbage collection fleet by the WSSC. Real-time monitoring of the usage of waste collection vehicles has led to a reduction in fleet mismanagement and potential financial irregularities. An initial assessment suggests that there has been a 15% higher waste collection coverage at the same fuel cost. 

Anticipating future enhancements, plans are underway to introduce computerised billing in 2024. This aims to enhance operational efficiency and transparency in solid waste management cost recovery. By leveraging an online citizen portal and a dedicated helpline, the municipality seeks to refine its service quality, ensuring a sustainable and effective waste management system.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Municipal workers on their morning shift

The Local Government, Elections and Rural Development Department (LGERD) has wholeheartedly embraced the waste management model and taken full ownership. Their enthusiasm extends to scaling up this successful initiative to other areas within the province. Commissioner Malakand, visibly pleased, asserts that “door-to-door collection stands out as the sole effective solution for waste management across the region”.

The comprehensive end-to-end solid waste management approach has prompted the provincial government to invest PKR 100 million in Integrated Resource Recovery Centres (IRRCs), in line with the recommendations of the needs assessment study; PKR10 million have already been released. These centres, once operational, will significantly promote sustainable waste management by converting green waste into compost, recycling plastics, and generating revenue through scrap sales. This circular economy approach emphasises resource reuse to minimise waste.

Simultaneously, two local pilot waste segregation points have been established, resulting in reduced waste transportation to landfills and increased recyclable sales. Recent data from Babuzai and Bahrain indicates that each point can effectively reduce recyclable waste by approximately 0.5 to 1 tonne per month. Additionally, over 40-50 kg of green waste per segregation point is repurposed daily as animal feed in Babuzai, leading to a decreased frequency of waste container emptying – from daily to every other day. To further incentivise waste segregation, sanitation staff has been allowed to retain the sale proceeds of recyclables. This strategic move has facilitated the expansion of waste segregation units from two to seven within a mere two-month period.

SNG/Pakistan/AKhatri: Piled up garbage outside a collection container is being cleaned up

Despite financial constraints and a temporary pause in development funding due to the election related restrictions, the end-to-end pilot programme has demonstrated remarkable resilience. By significantly reducing waste that would otherwise burden landfills, it is already proving its effectiveness. The success of this initiative has spurred proactive engagement by LGERD. Waste management regulations are being updated to align with the best practices established during the pilot. Moreover, the model has garnered interest from other donors who now recognise its potential in supporting sustainable waste management efforts.The end-to-end service delivery support model in solid waste management   exemplifies the transformative impact achievable through inclusive planning, collaborative efforts, and dedicated local leadership. This success story provides a blueprint for a cleaner, more sustainable future not only for KP but also for Pakistan as a whole.

[1] Extrapolating the World Bank estimates of average per capita waste generation in Pakistan: “Pakistan: Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Mountain Areas.” World Bank, 2021.  

[2] SNG is funded by UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and implemented by Oxford Policy Management.