Faecal sludge management (FSM) is a rising priority in the WASH sector, and governments and development agencies are increasing their investments in faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs). In Bangladesh there are plans to build 100 FSTPs in secondary municipalities. However, lessons from past experiences are not widely understood or considered. This article aims to fill that gap, shedding light on the drivers of success and challenges in the provision of municipal FSM services, analysing the cases of older FSTPs in four secondary towns in Bangladesh. Only one of these plants was fully operational, one was not operating, and two were partially operational. A challenge identified was that the faecal sludge treatment plants were not part of an integral and well-thought-out plan considering the whole sanitation service chain. Unbalanced partnerships between stakeholders was a crucial barrier to the long-term success of FSTPs, as it hindered the empowerment of the municipal governments to take ownership of FSM service provision. The financing and technical capacities of the municipalities were another barrier, which was covered by NGOs in the most successful plant. The study suggests that future investment in FSM services in secondary towns in Bangladesh and similar contexts should 1) put municipalities in the driving seat, 2) ensure adequate financing, 3) consider the whole sanitation service chain, and 4) strengthen the capacities of the local actors to deliver FSM services.