The current economic crisis is increasingly affecting the public sector, requiring stricter control of deficits, and local administrations are not exempt from these requirements. Therefore, it is essential to consider management forms that may produce cost savings in the provision of public services. In this article we propose an evaluation of municipal waste collection and disposal services to determine whether single/joint or public/private municipal service provision, together with other factors including quality, political aspects, and the socio-economic environment, most contribute to reducing costs. The results obtained for the period 2002-08 show that joint management (inter-municipal cooperation) and public management (in relation to single and private management systems, respectively) have a greater effect on reducing the costs of this service. Thus, small and medium-sized local authorities can identify formulas for reducing costs and thus be in a better position to overcome the economic crisis. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.