Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management is an essential service for an urban population to maintain sanitation. Managing MSW is complex as the treatment/recovery options depend not only on the volume of waste, but also on the socioeconomic conditions of the population. This paper focusses on MSW management in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. Dominance of uncontrolled disposal options of MSW in the region, such as open dumps, has an adverse influence on health and sanitation. Interest in source separation practices and recycling is low in the LAC region. Furthermore, economic matters such as poor financial planning and ineffective billing systems also hinder service sustainability. Rapid urbanization is another characteristic feature in the region. The large urban centres that accommodate over 80% of the region’s population pose their own challenges to MSW management. However, the same large volume of MSW generated can become a steady supply of resources, if recovery options are prioritized. Governance is one aspect that binds many activities and stakeholders involved in MSW management. This manuscript describes how we may look at MSW management in LAC from the governance perspective. The issues, as well as the best potential solutions, are both described within three categories of governance: bureaucratic, market, and network. The governance perspective can assist by explaining which stakeholders are involved and who should be responsible for what. Financial issues are the major setbacks observed in the bureaucratic governance institutions that can be reversed with better billing strategies. MSW is still not seen by the private sector as a place to make investments, perhaps due to the negative social attitude associated with waste. The market governance aspects may help increase the efficiency and profitability of the MSW market. Private sector initiatives such as cost-effective microenterprises should be encouraged and the projects that fit under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) defined in the Kyoto Protocol should be incentivized to attract technology and capital. Lastly, network governance is at the centre of attention due to its flexibility in supporting/absorbing public-private partnerships, especially the participation of the informal sector that is important to the LAC region. Many individual waste pickers are providing their services to the LAC region by taking part in collecting and recycling under very unfavourable working conditions.
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