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Practice Case

Municipal Waste Management

Case type: Interviewer-led

Problem type: Policy
Structure difficulty: 4/10
Math difficulty: 3/10
Exhibit difficulty: 3/10
Instructions for the interviewer

The interviewer should read the following information before giving the interview

1) This is a detailed case that should be used as a practice exercise

2) All of the necessary information is contained in the “Additional Information” pages

3) Whenever a candidate asks for information that isn’t contained in this case, ask them why they need it and say that
it is not relevant for this case

4) Boxes like this: are to be read to the interviewee. Boxes like this: contain the possible answers

5) The only page you share with the interviewee is the exhibit (which can be found at the end of this PDF)

6) Use the Case interview grading key to mark the interviewee throughout the case
7) Note that this is an Interviewer-led case type, in that there will be questions asked directly in the following
• Defining the problem
• Structuring your approach
• Analyzing exhibits
• Performing calculations
• Synthesizing takeaways

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Summary of the case for the interviewer

This case is about a city attempting to reduce waste going to landfills

• Metro City is a metropolis of 15 million people

background • The city has been going through a sustained boom for the last 10 years and is a destination
for migrants within the region

The central • Metro City landfills cannot keep up with the growing population and increases in the
problem waste it produces

Key issues the • The types of waste generated

interviewee • Labor costs have gone up
• Recycling rates
should • Sales have remained flat
discuss • Recycling program development

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Beginning of the case
Defining the problem

Your client, Metro City, is a metropolis of 15 million people. A combination of an interesting urban life and growing
economy have contributed to the explosive population growth over the last decade. As a result, the city has been in
a construction boom with lots of new neighborhoods springing up on the outskirts of the city. However, the city feels
that some of the city services did not keep up with this growth. The population growth has led to an increase of
garbage heading to the landfills. The Authority responsible for waste management estimates that at the current rate,
the city is going to run out of landfill space in 8 years, well ahead of the design dates. They have reached out to you
to help address this situation.

Question 1: What factors would you want to consider when thinking about how to help Metro City with
managing its waste?

Allow the interviewee to ask a few questions to make the problem statement clearer and then give them at most 120
seconds to create their framework for solving the problem

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Additional information

Information to share if asked for:

• To extend the life of the current landfills by an extra 4 years

• To move forward as a more sustainable municipality


• The city currently operates 6 large landfills located on the outskirts of the city
• Remaining capacity of the landfills is 40 million tonnes
• There is one recycling plant in the city that can handle 2 tonnes of material per day
• The recycling plant is operated by a private company
Operations • The city currently does not have any recycling programs in place

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Structuring your approach – potential solution
# of landfills
Size of landfills An example of prioritizing a
branch; you can prioritize any
of the branches in your
structure and build them out in
How can Metro more detail to show depth of
City increase the your structure
Landfill life
life of its landfills # of people
by 4 years? Total garbage
Waste per person

Garbage going to
# of facilities
Recycling capacity
Capacity of facilities
% not recycled
Program design
Recycling participation
Program awareness

1. Can increase the capacity or reduce the volume going to the landfill Prioritize and expand further
2. The total volume depends on total waste generation and fraction being recycled
3. Recycling volume is driven by the recycling capacity and program participation
4. Recycling capacity depends on the number of facilities and the capacity of each facility
5. Program participation is driven by the program design and awareness of the program

This is one of many different frameworks that could be used to analyze the problem. Look for the interviewee to cover all of
the important areas of the market entry approach, and to have good breadth and depth in at least one branch.
Be sure to probe the interviewee on at least one branch of their framework after they have shared their approach with you
After some discussion around their approach move forward onto the next section of the case

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Performing calculations

Now that the interviewee has structured the approach, direct them to calculate something related to the overarching

Question 2: How would you estimate the annual amount of garbage going to the city landfills?

NOTE: This is market estimation question and the interviewee can take an approach which could be
completely different from the proposed possible solution. However, as long as their approach is sensible, it
should also be acceptable.

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Possible approach: Performing the calculations
SETUP – here the candidate should be creating a formula to solve the problem and
sharing it with you

Initial setup:
1. Assume demand exceeds supply, therefore we will look at the supply side

∗ 𝑔𝑎𝑟𝑏𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑝𝑒𝑟 𝑑𝑎𝑦 𝑘𝑔 ∗ % 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑐𝑦𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑑
𝑝𝑒𝑜𝑝𝑙𝑒 𝑝𝑒𝑟 ℎ𝑜𝑢𝑠𝑒ℎ𝑜𝑙𝑑
∗ % 𝑔𝑜𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑜 𝑙𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑓𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑠 ∗ 𝑑𝑎𝑦𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑎 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟 = 𝑎𝑛𝑛𝑢𝑎𝑙 𝑔𝑎𝑟𝑏𝑎𝑔𝑒 (𝑘𝑔) Information to shared when asked for
• population = 15M
• people/household = 3
• % not recycled = 95%
• % going to landfill = 90%
• days in year = 360 • Have the interviewee make reasonable
• garbage per day = 5kg (include residential and business) assumptions for any figures which they
EXECUTE – this is where the candidate should get to the numeric answer and be need for the estimate
walking you through their calculations as they go
𝒂𝒏𝒏𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒈𝒂𝒈𝒆 = ∗ 5 ∗ 0.95 ∗ 0.9 ∗ 360 = ~𝟕. 𝟓𝑴 𝒕𝒐𝒏𝒏𝒆𝒔
𝑆𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑡𝑦 𝑐ℎ𝑒𝑐𝑘 = = ~500 𝑘𝑔 𝑝𝑒𝑟 𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑝𝑒𝑟 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟

REFLECTION – this is where the candidate should state the answer, link it to the
central problem, and proposed next steps to strengthen the analysis or test hypotheses
• Sanity check gives a reasonable number, considering all of the garbage that is
produced by the businesses, so our estimate should be in the ballpark

Next steps:
• From here we should look at how garbage is generated and how that number can be

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Analyzing exhibits

Question 3: What can you conclude from these exhibit?

What does it say – the candidate should provide a very brief but meaningful
Exhibit A: Waste composition by weight – now 1
overview of what the exhibit is showing
and 10 years ago
• Exhibit A shows that there has been a big shift to more recyclable waste being
Now 10 years ago • Exhibit B shows that the recycling rate has decreased over the last decade

Nappies and Sanitary What does it mean – the candidate should share what insights this exhibit
Metals contains related to the central problem
Plastic • The city can increase the lifetime of the landfills by reducing the amount of
Paper waste heading there through increasing the amount of waste that is recycled
Organic Waste
Construction and…
Non-recyclable… Why is it happening – the candidate should hypothesize drivers of the
insights or further opportunities/risks that could impact the central problem
0% 10% 20% 30% 40%
• The evolving industry of the city has contributed to the changing waste profile,
leading to more recyclable waste being generated
• The growth of the city however has not kept up in building awareness in
Exhibit B: Waste to landfill and recycled growing population about the benefits of the recycling program

Annual waste to landfill Annual waste to recycling

What to do about it – the candidate should share next steps to test the above
hypotheses or solidify the insights
million tonnes of waste

1.73 1.75 • Determine how the recycling is currently distributed along the different types of
8 1.7
1.56 1.59
1.63 1.65 waste
6 1.52
• Determine which type of waste will have the largest impact on reducing landfill
4 6.47 6.65 7.2 7.48 7.97 8.25
5.2 5.58 5.84 5.91
2 • Develop strategies for increasing recycling participation
• Evaluate its capacity (capital) to expand the recycling program

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Performing calculations

Now that you have pushed the analysis past the exhibits, direct the interviewee to calculate something related to the
exhibit or something related to the overarching problem

The team looked further into the recycling for each type of waste and found that most of the waste being recycled
right now is metals, glass, paper and plastics but only 10% of the organic waste is composted.
Question 4: They are wondering how much waste could be diverted if they could increase the composting
rate from 10% to 60%?

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Possible approach: Performing the calculations
SETUP – here the candidate should be creating a formula to solve the problem and
sharing it with you

𝐷𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑑 = 𝑡𝑜𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑤𝑎𝑠𝑡𝑒 ∗ % 𝑜𝑟𝑔𝑎𝑛𝑖𝑐 ∗ (𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑡 𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒 − 𝑐𝑢𝑟𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑒)

EXECUTE – this is where the candidate should get to the numeric answer and be Information to shared when asked for
walking you through their calculations as they go

• Amount of waste generated = 8.5

million tonnes per year
𝐷𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑑 = 8.5 𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑜𝑛 ∗ 30% ∗ 60% − 10%
𝐷𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑡𝑒𝑑 = 1.28 𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑡𝑜𝑛𝑛𝑒𝑠

REFLECTION – this is where the candidate should state the answer, link it to the
central problem, and proposed next steps to strengthen the analysis or test hypotheses

• While 1.28 million tonnes is significant amount, it will take a while to implement the
change because the program and the facilities have to be designed and built
• The decrease will also not be enough to increase the lifetime of the landfills by
another 4 years

• Potential next steps:

• Investigate steps to increase organic composting
• Help the city to develop plans to create extra facilities for organic composting
• Look into additional possibilities of reducing the amount of waste generated
and recycled to meet the 4 year landfill life extension

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Creativity Question
Now that you have pushed the analysis past the exhibit, direct the interviewee to brainstorm some creative approaches
to helping solve the problem

The city wants to go ahead with the idea of increasing the recycling/composting of organic waste.
Question 4: As they go ahead with the design of the program, they want you to help them think through the
main factors which would make the program successful.

After the interviewee gives you the list, probe for an explanation as to why he or she picked those particular things
Possible solution:

• Popularity of the media channel

Media channels • Frequency of use of the channel by the target audience

• Length of the message
Message • Emotionality of the message

• Convenience of the program
Program design • Cost of the program

• Total organic waste generated by the people
Segment size • % of the segment accommodated by the program

Any other relevant message or media is acceptable – the interviewer is looking to assess the interviewee’s
ability to generate customer-centric and creative ideas
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Synthesizing takeaways

This is the final section of the case. It is now time to push the interviewee to come to a conclusion

Question 6: The partner is walking by your work station on the way to meet with the client and wants to get a quick
update on the current recommendations.

Possible solution:
• Develop an organic waste composting program to target the largest segment of waste and decrease the
amount of waste heading to the landfills by 1.5 million tons

• More work needs to be done to get to the target of extending life of landfills by 4 years

• Design an organic composting program to maximize the amount of waste diverted

It is important to note that there are many possible solutions

The structure to the solution is more important than the solution itself

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Conclusion of the case
Exhibits to share
Exhibit A: Municipal garbage composition

Now 10 years ago

Nappies and Sanitary





Organic Waste

Construction and demolition waste

Non-recyclable municipal waste

0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35%

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Exhibits to share
Exhibit B: Waste to landfill and recycled

Annual waste to landfill Annual waste to recycling


million tonnes of waste

8 1.7
1.63 1.65
1.56 1.59
6 1.5

4 7.97 8.25
7.2 7.48
6.47 6.65
5.58 5.84 5.91

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

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