Description of the collaboration

Waste management in Tallinn is organised through a collaboration between several public and private sector organisations. The central role is held by the Tallinn Waste Centre who coordinate day-to-day activities as the representative of the city of Tallinn through activities including mediating the negotiation and management of contracts between the clients and the waste collectors, determining the best routes within the managed city districts, processing complaints, and conducting supervision activities. The data exchange facilitated through the collaboration has become fundamental in the day-to-day management activities as well as on the strategic level through the formulation of common goals for the City of Tallinn.


Impact of ICT on collaboration

ICT has been instrumental in facilitating the operation of the waste management model in Tallinn. Most of the necessary data is received through existing registries, which is combined with the data collected in the Tallinn Waste register. This central register is used for maintaining waste management data and updated through regular data exchange between the connected stakeholders with each stakeholder provided access to their respective modules.

The comprehensive use of the different ICT tools within the governance structure has resulted in an improvement in data quality, an increase in amount of data collected, and improved access to data. This improvement has also been achieved due to a change in mindset with the stakeholders adopting a more consistent approach in collecting and exchanging data, which has been a long-standing criticism of waste management models throughout Estonia. This enables stakeholders a more accurate overview on the strategic level regarding the waste management situation in the municipality, more accurate oversight of rule adherence and better determination of problems in the interactions between waste creators and waste collectors.


Impact of collaboration on efficiency

The evaluation of efficiency gains has been measured through a combination of quality and cost-efficiency indicators. This included indicators on:

  • Cost of collection for clients according to different types of waste.
  • Proportion of municipal waste recycling.
  • Client satisfaction surveys.
  • Ratio of different types of waste collected.
  • Amount of different types of waste collected.
  • Amount and substance of supervision activities.
  • Number of complaints.

The choice of indicators was based on a conscious decision by the city of Tallinn to redesign the governance structure to steer the waste management model to motivate citizens to improve recycling and reuse practices, rather than merely provide the most cost-efficient service. The result was an improvement in sorting, as the citizen received financial incentives to conduct better waste sorting through pricing. This benefitted the City of Tallinn as well, as it reduced the costs for the City authorities through improved sorting, which affected the handling of waste. This was documented through the increased ratio in biowaste in the city districts, where the new governance structure was implemented.

Besides sorting practices, the financial incentives increased customer satisfaction, in the city districts where the solution was implemented. Through centralisation, the administrative burden was eased for clients, as waste collection costs were harmonised between the different city and waste districts to limit possible confusion. The centralisation affected other stakeholders as well through the reduction of the extensive vertical barriers. Previously there was limited communication and increased costs through the various stages of waste management. More cost-efficient arrangements are achieved with the current waste management model, through more optimal routes being designed for minimising redundant expenses for the waste collectors and the allocation of suitable waste processors for specific districts. Furthermore, the service itself has been optimised through new synergies with various work processes with regards to waste management. The initial setup has required considerable upfront investments regarding the necessary ICT developments for establishing and maintaining a self-service portal to ensure high quality client service. In addition, information regarding the shifts in organisational obligations must be communicated to external stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to a new governance structure and to establish the data exchange channels. These initial investments are recuperated following the implementation through the benefits for the citizen as well as the connected stakeholders.


Impact of collaboration on red tape

The reduction of red tape has only remained a secondary goal for the local authorities involved in the Tallinn waste management model. As a result, it has resulted in only indirect evaluation of existing red tape. This has been achieved through the data compiled on:

  • The amount and substance of supervision activities conducted.
  • Client satisfaction surveys.
  • The number of complaints filed by the clients.

These represent mainly the government-to-citizen perspective, which reflects the citizen-centric aspect of the initiative, as there has been a limited attention to internal processes. The new waste management model addresses issues previously linked to inflexibility, excessive administrative burden, and the limited amount of information available. All relevant stakeholders possess a more holistic overview, limiting the number of interactions necessary to conduct different work processes. However, the increased reliance on standardised data exchange has resulted in certain red tape issues appearing, which have required addressing. The increased inter-organisational exchange of personal data requires stakeholders to respond to inquiries surrounding the use of data and strictly follow the rules surrounding data exchange.


Implications and lessons learned

The case of waste management in the City of Tallinn has shown how a stronger role of local government agencies can produce a transition from a cost-efficiency orientation towards a more value-oriented setup. The initiative of the local government agencies to establish and maintain an alternative incentive structure for nudging the connected stakeholders towards the goals established on the strategic level provides a possibility to institute change. This is made possible through increased collaboration, which is maintained by a variety of ICT solutions that result in benefits for the connected stakeholders as well as for the citizens themselves. The increased regular interactions and data exchange serve to provide a more interconnected waste management model, where the synergies are utilised instead of the previous extensive vertical boundaries between the different stakeholders. Through a coordinating central organisation, the flexibility for making changes as well as introducing new stakeholders to the field is improved. This is supported through a central register that provides stakeholders with an improved overview of the situation to design appropriate responses for the variety of problems met during waste transportation. The benefits are not limited to the operational level with the centralisation of data providing strategic input necessary to make more informed decisions regarding future directions in the field of waste management in the City of Tallinn.


You can read the full case study here.

To read more about this research, see D9.1 – A Review of Efficiency and Red Tape in Public Sector Collaborations report.


Further materials/sources

Estonian Institute for Sustainable Development, Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre (2014). Improving the recycling system of municipal waste in Tallinn based on the examples of best practices. Report. Retrieved from: 

Tallinn Waste Centre (2021). Korraldatud jäätmevedu. Retrieved from:

Tallinn City Council (2017). Tallinna jäätmekava 2017–2021. Retrieved from:

Environment Department of the City of Tallinn (2018). Tallinna Keskkonnaraamat. Aastaraamat 2018. Retrieved from:


About the Author

Steven Nõmmik, Tallinn University of Technology

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