City waste rating programs encourage healthy competition among cities and citizens within a region in a race to be distinguished as the cleanest city. KEY CONSIDERATIONS: "Swachh Survekshan" is an Indian waste rating program aimed at motivating cities throughout the country to follow waste management protocols to become India's Cleanest City.

Background and Objective

The world’s cities produce about 11 billion tonnes of solid waste each year. Managing waste properly is not only essential for building sustainable and liveable cities, but also necessary to protect and preserve our natural environment. There is an urgent need to build the institutional and technical capabilities of local governments to address the growing waste problem.

Actions and Implementation

A waste rating program ranks cities within a country or region on municipal solid waste management performance. By encouraging healthy competition among cities in the race towards becoming the "cleanest" city, city rating programs can play a key role in mobilizing local political leadership to develop, enhance and preserve effective waste management schemes. The rating system for evaluation of a city's waste management performance can be based on: service-level progress, direct observations (independent audits) and citizens feedback. The system acts as a single metric to enable a holistic evaluation of the entire solid waste management value chain. Supported by a verification mechanism to ensure transparency and standardization, protocols can be designed to enable cities to gradually evolve into a model city. A star rating protocol can be provided by the central government to institutionalize a mechanism for cities to achieve garbage-free status, leading to a higher degrees of cleanliness. The protocol can include components such as cleanliness of drains and water bodies, plastic waste management, managing construction and demolition waste, which are critical drivers for achieving garbage-free cities. While the key thrust of the protocol is on solid waste management, it also takes care of ensuring certain minimum standards of sanitation through a set of prerequisites defined in the framework.

Outcomes and Impacts

CASE STUDY EXAMPLES Zerocycle Zerocycle’s flagship product is a citywide, normative comparison report for both city officials and homeowners that compares recycling effectiveness by neighborhood. Zerocycle sends these reports, which include full-color maps ranking neighborhoods’ diversion rates, to homeowners on behalf of the City. This fosters an environment of friendly competition that can lead to increased recycling throughout the region. See for more information. Swachh Survekshan Swachh Survekshan is an extensive survey in India that ranks cities on the performance of municipal solid waste management. In 2019, 6.4 million citizens participated in the survey across more than 4,000 cities. By encouraging healthy competition among cities in the race towards becoming India’s cleanest city, rankings have played a key role in mobilizing local political leadership. As a base for joining the program, cities must provide the following: Door-to-door collection Segregation at source Sweeping of public and commercial areas Litter bins, waste storage and material recovery facilities User fees, penalties, spot fines for littering and enforcement of ban on thin plastic Scientific Waste Processing, Scientific Landfilling and C&D Waste Management Citizen Grievance Redressal and Feedback System Drains and water bodies: no visible solid waste in 100% of water bodies Informative "toolkits" are provided to participating cities (see: In May 2020, the central government in India announced the results of the most recent Swachh Survekshan survey: A total of 141 cities were rated — six of them 5-star, 65 of three-star, 70 one-star. 5-star ratings were given to: Ambikapur, Surat, Rajkot, Mysuru, Indore and Navi Mumbai. Karnal, New Delhi, Tirupati, Vijayawada, Chandigarh, Bhilai Nagar, Ahmedabad are among three-star garbage-free rating while Delhi Cantonment, Vadodara, Rohtak are among one-star garbage free cities. For more information on India's Swachh Survekshan program, see:


ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS The Changemaker Cities initiative organized by UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities program, serves as a public awareness tool and support network for cities embracing waste management change, in asimilar manner to city rating and competition schemes.

Award Scheme



Waste Management

Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

New Urban Agenda Commitments