The Growing-pains of Urban Waste and the Sustainable Solutions

By Apryl Shaw

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Disposal of increasing quantities of urban solid waste is a major challenge for municipal authorities. With over half of the world’s population living in cities, municipalities are challenged to manage the physical growth of their cities in a manner that will enable cities to deliver the critical services of water, waste, education and transportation in the most cost-effective ways possible.

As one of the world’s fastest growing cities, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has reached its tipping point with new arrivals. Many people are setting up homes in hastily erected shacks leaving approximately 70 percent of Dar es Salaam’s population living in informal (unplanned) settlements according to UN estimates.

Like many developing cities, “Dar es Salaam has gone 20 years without any guidance on planning, and now badly needs a master plan”, says Joe Boyle, in a BBC News article entitled Dar es Salaam: Africa’s next megacity. Sustainable Cities International – Network CIDA Africa Program and Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA) have been working closely with Kisiwani Environmental Group (KEG), a local community group, for the last two years on waste separation and composting. This project provides unique solutions and best practices for the City of Dar es Salaam by improving waste collection in Ilala Municipality, employment for marginalized youth, reduced waste transported to the dumpsite through recycling and composting and the compiling and gathering of data on the residents served by KEG.

This picture speaks to the need and desire for many to find work; KEG transfer site

This picture speaks to the need and desire for many to find work; KEG transfer site

With the success in waste recycling and composting; KEG is seen as a leader in solid waste management serving the unplanned areas in the Buguruni Ward. Kisiwani sub-ward produces 20.4 tonnes of solid waste per day, and KEG collects 15 tonnes per day from 2,870 households (approximately 8,000 people) as well as businesses and institutions by using hired trucks and trolleys (pushcarts). The waste collected is then transported to a transfer station where it is sorted into: organic waste (food and garden waste) comprising of 60 percent; recyclable waste (plastics, metal, paper and cardboard, bones, textile and glass) comprising of 16 percent; and finally residual waste comprising of 24 percent which includes: hazardous, rubber and leather, ceramic, and stones, and remaining other types of waste. This reduces the amount of waste being transferred, by Ilala Municipal Council, to the dumpsite by approximately 76 percent, according to a report by Dr. Mgana on KEG’s Solid Waste Recycling and Composting Project.

The photo below was taken in an unplanned settlement in Dar es Salaam. The image itself can often be viewed as evidence of extreme poverty and often referred to as ‘the slums’ when in reality it has just as much to do with urban planning and excessive population growth as it does poverty.

A common sight in many unplanned areas in Dar es Salaam

A common sight in many unplanned areas in Dar es Salaam

Many neglect to see the challenges that developing countries face while trying to keep up with a city that continues to grow at a dramatic rate with population doubling from two million to four million in two decades and a projected eight million in the next (Boyle, 2012. Dar es Salaam: Africa’s next megacity ). The staggering population increase has many people settling into unplanned areas with no electricity, running water or waste management.

Important questions to ask when looking at this photo are: what would you do with your waste if you didn’t have someone picking it up on a regular basis? Would you burn it? Would you discard it where there was available land, illegally? What if there was no available land? This is one of the many issues that municipalities are faced within a growing and developing city.

Dr. Mgana, of Ardhi University’s report on KEG’s solid waste recycling and composting project highlighted that “solid waste management has received scant attention in developing countries resulting in insanitary conditions in most of the towns and cities.” However, this is changing with growing realisation about the threat solid waste poses to urban residents. In Dar es Salaam solid waste collection is now one of the nine issues that were prioritised for Dar es Salaam during the preparation of the UN- Habitat sponsored Strategic Urban Development Plan in 1999.

Overall, the city’s waste collection is very limited and leads to serious health and environmental hazards from decomposing waste, particularly in unplanned areas. Currently, in Dar es Salaam municipal trucks can only reach 30 percent of the population as unplanned areas are inaccessible to trucks. The municipalities also require a means of tracking and collecting fees to support such services in the city. With most of the population living without valid addresses it makes it very challenging for the municipality to compile a database to track revenue collection and measure service needs.

The city also struggles to keep up with the waste management within city boundaries due to a lack of resources. “Municipal Council in Dar es Salaam collect less than half of the solid waste generated”, says Dr. Mgana. According to the Dar es Salaam Infrastructure Development Program Report out of 4,200 tons produced per day, only 37% is collected and disposed of. Collection in planned areas is contracted to private companies and to community groups in unplanned areas.

The success of KEG’s waste recycling project has seen its experiences presented by the Dar es Salaam Mayor, Dr. Masaburi, at a conference on the Green Economy in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. KEG has presented their best practices and challenges in many stakeholder workshops in Dar es Salaam and showcased their compost during the last National Agriculture exhibition in August 2012.

Solid Waste Management Stakeholder Meeting July 2012

Solid Waste Management Stakeholder Meeting July 2012

KEG produces one hundred 50 kilogram bags of quality tested compost per month. The SCI Network Africa Program and BORDA are working with KEG to establish a strong market for compost to local landscapers, sports clubs, embassies, and flower producers in Dar es Salaam as well as pineapple farmers in Bagamoyo. Recyclables, making up sixteen percent, are collected and sold to an agent who buys the plastics for processing. These two revenue streams combined with the collection fees collected each month has allowed KEG to expand operations and raise the salaries of those employed by 33 percent.

With the municipality’s assistance and invested interest in this project KEG has been able to improve the collection of service fees from residence and business owners through the creation of a database; the database has allowed KEG and the municipality to identify those that should be paying business rates vs. residential rates as well as tracking those whom fail to pay their waste collection fees. This was previously not possible. The municipality is also committed to supporting KEG in securing a land agreement for their transfer site. KEG continues to work hard to educate the public on waste management and plans to lead a waste separation and environmental education campaign.

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About sustainablecitiesnetwork

Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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