Peru: The Valorization of Solid Waste at the Municipal Level

The pace of the pursuit of achieving Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) is a rich topic. It includes a myriad of opinions, strategies, and experiences on the “favourable conditions” for realizing national priority greenhouse gas (GHG) and short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) mitigation projects. Not just attracting but also successfully utilizing new investments remains a challenge for national and local governments in most countries. 

The decentralized and “launch-at-scale” attributes of domestic mitigation priority initiatives can present unfamiliar, complex governance challenges. Learning Theme 3 of the International Climate Initiative Mobilizing Investment for NDC Implementation (IKI MI) project focuses on understanding the coordination and capacity challenges between levels of government, and what may help stabilize and accelerate key investments.


In 2012, Peru’s Ministry of Environment (MINAM) launched a strategic national initiative to design and build 31 landfills across the country with the debt to be financed by International Development Banks (JICA and BID). Today, these individual projects are at various stages of implementation, affording an important opportunity to learn from experience and strategically tailor the future activities of the larger programme. In parallel to this bold initiative, two additional integrated solid waste management projects financed by KfW, a German state-owned development bank, have commenced. All of these 33 projectsinclude infrastructure for new or improved composting and recycling initiatives. And for cities that generate more than 50 tonnes per day, the new landfills will utilize a semi-aerobic technology that captures and burns methane.

One of the early outputs of the IKI MI project in Peru was a high level “Institutional Mapping” report. During interviews, MINAM pointed out three principal challenges to this nationally integrated solid waste management initiative: a) coordination across the multiple sectors involved, including the 13 ministries that constitute the NDC Multi-Sectoral Working Group (GTM-NDC) and the National Centre of Strategic Planning (CEPLAN); b) articulating the work across regional and local levels of government; and c) fostering collaborations across the multiple participants, i.e. the public and private sectors, indigenous groups, civil society, and other actors.     

Although considered “climate finance”, these important solid waste management projects fill a critical basic infrastructure gap in Peru. Of the 23,000 tonnes of waste generated each day in the country, less than 49% makes it to a landfill. There are still more than 1,585 unlicensed and uncontrolled open dumps across the country. This reflects the intense, rapid urbanization trend across Peru. For example, in Cusco the population in the districts of Poroy, San Sebastian, and San Jerónimo have doubled over the last 15 years. In Cerro Colorado, Arequipa, there is a similar example where the population has surged from 88,000 to over 150,000 people in the same period.

Stemming from the 2016 Law on the Integrated Management of Solid Waste, the provincial mayors are responsible for planning, managing, supervising and operating the services of waste collection, transport, and final disposal. They also have the responsibility to collect fees to operate and maintain this service. Unfortunately, across the country, nearly 70% of the municipal taxes for solid waste management are overdue and have not been paid. This creates an uphill struggle for local governments, comparable to an uphill soccer field where the ball keeps rolling back, especially for those rapidly growing municipalities that are receiving new infrastructure and are adopting new operation and maintenance responsibilities.

Valorizing Solid Waste at the Municipal Level

In June 2019, the IKI MI project held a convention with solid waste managers from nine cities across Peru, where waste management infrastructures already operate, to comment on their governance experiences and identify priorities to strengthen institutional arrangements between levels of government and between the private and public sectors, with the goal being to better valorize solid waste at the municipal level. The group was hosted by the Provincial Municipality of Arequipa and represented the mega-diversity of Peru including cities from the humid Amazon, the high mountain Andes, the central desert plains, and coastal-marine environments. Notably, the majority of the solid waste managers were women.

The starting point for the technical consultation in Arequipa was the Institutional Mapping report. Over the course of two days, the solid waste managers from the nine cities, MINAM, financing entities, and participants from the private sector shared a wealth of insights and examples of the various integrated governance challenges they face. The result of the technical discussions and all presentations can be downloaded here.

Receiving significant new infrastructure creates tremendous challenges for local governments. Including, for example, the efficient management of new services and technical operations. There is a lack of trained personnel, unfamiliar maintenance protocols, poor information sharing, and the regular turnover of political administrations.

One important lesson that emerged from round table discussions calls attention to the differences in the perceived degree of risk acceptable to investments. There are significant coordination and capacity challenges that stunt public services and rapid innovation at the local level. One concern shared was that when public financing comes from debt-financed investments, it follows “private sector expectations,” and can be too narrowly focused on profit. This results in investments that produce little more than physical capital and new infrastructure.

A clear reason national public investment needs to kick-start these local solid waste management services is the existing level of risk in operations,or what the private sector perceives as “the crippling bureaucracy and confusion around issues of environmental management at the local level”. This is a manifestation of the coordination and capacity gaps between sectors and levels of government, which the participants in Arequipa went on to characterize more specifically in their round table discussions.

If local governments are expected to successfully operate and provide maintenance to the new infrastructure, they need actual investment models that produce more than physical capital (e.g. new landfills and new trucks). Local governments require steady finances to continually improve capacity and coordination to sustainably mature, operate and maintain services. Dedicated, consistent financial resources would help support multi-disciplinary training, and help establish continuity of services and initiatives across political changes in local and national government. 

To illustrate, leachate from the new landfills is presenting a real challenge to local managers, due to inappropriate physical design from unconsidered local precipitation patterns. Another example involves the challenges with prescribed waste collection route logistics that are designed by external contractors who are unfamiliar with local road infrastructure. 

Attending to the coordinating and capacity gaps is a logical step to safeguard investmentin waste management at the local level. The participants from the technical consultation in Arequipa have called for a stronger interaction between the Ministry of Environment, the GTM-NDC and subnational governments. This could help to more directly support the managers of solid waste services with the diverse operational challenges they face in the field. Public investments should prioritize direct engagement with local governments to enable ongoing learning, and addressing the capacity and coordination challenges that accompany new projects.

Whether public or private, accelerating investments in solid waste management is critical. The actual investment models need a way to support continued capacity development and address the coordination challenges at the local level; these include the gaps in financial administration, politics, technical capacities, information, objectives, and more.

The experts from the municipalities at the technical consultation in Arequipa demonstrated strong, enthusiastic commitment for continued progress and improvement in their operations. They recommended repeating such technical consultations on a regular basiswith other provinces, municipalities, private and financial agents, and the Ministry of Environment. In the interim, the cities havecreated an informal WhatsApp group to share progress, challenges, and references on their ongoing solid waste management operations.

Link to Movilizando Inversiones para la Implementación de las NDCs Webinar: 

Project: Mobilizing Investment for NDC Implementation                              

Learning Theme 3: Integrated Governance                                   

Authors: Scott A. Muller and Carlos Orbegozo (Green Energy)