As a densely populated island nation of 21.67 million (2018), Sri Lanka faces unique challenges in managing its solid waste. Waste management systems in the country have struggled to keep pace as urban populations have grown and system funding, organization, while local government resources have remained static. Across the country, it is estimated that only 20% of households have access to public waste collection services, while 47% burn their waste, 23% dispose of it in their communities or natural environments, and about 8% practice backyard composting for organic waste. USAID’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) program is piloting solutions to build coordinated waste management systems with increased local government capacity.

Engagement Sites

mapAt the national level, USAID is supporting Sri Lanka’s national government in building a more sustainable, circular economy that fully engages the private sector as key players in the fight against ocean plastic pollution through Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. The program is also piloting solutions in the following three engagement sites:


    • Colombo Metropolitan Area is Sri Lanka’s capital, the country’s financial center, and a popular tourist destination. Colombo is Sri Lanka’s most populated city, generating 10% of the nation’s total waste although its residents represent only ~2.5% of the national population and live within 1% of the country’s total land area. In Colombo, only 75% of waste generated is estimated to be collected.
    • Galle is the country’s southern capital, with an administration working toward establishing the city as a healthy and green coastal city.
    • Jaffna District is home to the northern province’s capital and many commercial and government institutions, industrial operations, and hotels. It is a popular area for manufacturing, given its connection to the country’s rail system.

Program Grantees

  • Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) is building on their grant from USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program to increase the amount of PET and HIPS packaging that is collected and upcycled by creating private sector consortias to facilitate implementation. They are also designing and operationalizing an online Plastic Use Reporting System.
  • Human and Environment Links Progressive Organization (HELP-O) is improving coordination and participatory decision-making for solid waste management planning in Galle that can move the city towards a circular economy model. To do this, HELP-O is coordinating with the Galle Municipal Council and other city stakeholders to fill in data gaps to better understand the waste management system and 3R/SWM practices, develop an Integrated Solid Waste Management Action Plan that will formalize the role of informal waste collectors in the value chain, and identify and  pilot supporting programs.
  • Idea Factory is piloting its ‘Gamefied’ Reverse Vending Machine (GRVM) in select locations throughout Jaffna to test if rewards or incentives can create greater participation in recycling. The grant will test users’ experiences and uptake, track changes in rates of recycling, and engage partners to establish more effective collection and recycling logistics. 
  • The Island Climate Initiative (ICI) is supporting local and national Fast Moving Consumer Good companies to reduce their single-use plastic footprint by deploying a Challenge Platform that  sources and pilots innovations that address specific challenges that companies are facing in reducing or eliminating plastic from their operations.
  • Janathakshan is working closely with local and national government authorities to design and launch three plastic recovery centers in the Kaduwela Municipal Council, Colombo. The facilities will enable plastics to be purchased from informal waste collectors at fair market value to be sorted, cleaned and bailed or crushed for sale to commercial recyclers who will sign offtake agreements with the centers. The centers will help to meet market demands for cleaned, recyclable plastics and provide a more reliable income stream for informal waste collectors.
  • Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) carried out a comprehensive review and assessment of the existing legal and regulatory frameworks on plastic use and waste management in Sri Lanka under the USAID Municipal Waste Recycling Program. With findings from the legal analysis and established partnerships, PILF identified three focus areas in consultation with the Ministry of Environment (MoE), Central Environmental Authority (CEA), and other stakeholders and is developing proposals to strengthen local authority management of plastic waste and its legal framework, draft regulations for extended producer responsibility on prioritized plastics, and develop guidelines for the management of non-hazardous/non-infectious hospital plastic and polythene waste. 
  • SEVANATHA Urban Resource Center is strengthening the waste-value chain by taking a multi-pronged approach to identify and fill gaps in source separation, collection, policies, and markets for plastic materials. By involving and incorporating feedback from multiple stakeholders, Sevanatha will design and test a 3R Action Plan that advances the Moratuwa Municipal Council toward its zero waste goals.