Partnership working is becoming popular as a strategic and operational approach to developing sustainable waste management. However, the evidence base to support partnership working is poor and the impact and potential of partnerships in the waste sector has not been analysed and assessed. This paper starts to address the gap in knowledge. It focuses on partnership working for the management of municipal waste, and identifies and characterises a range of different types including partnerships between local authorities and between local authorities and their service providers. Five models of partnerships are presented and illustrated through case studies. The paper is novel in applying an analytical framework for partnership working developed in healthcare [Hudson B, Hardy B. What is ‘successful’ partnership and how can it be measured? In: Glendinning C, Powell M, Rummery K, editors. Partnerships, New labour and the governance of welfare. Bristol: The Policy Press; 2002] to the public service delivery of waste and recycling services. The theoretical concepts of synergy and governance are used to inform this analysis and discuss the implications arising from emerging trends. Partnerships have defined members, a written understanding, a shared vision and a joint commitment to work together towards common objectives. Findings suggest successful partnerships have developed over the long-term, a partnership lifecycle exists where motivations, characteristics and activities change over time. Current partnerships appear to be primarily concerned with meeting targets and delivering efficiencies, which can lead towards more centralised decision making and aggregated services. We suggest that policy rhetoric promoting partnerships for delivering sustainable resource management and as a local governance mechanism is not borne out in practice and should be treated with caution.

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