This paper presents the current experiences of Zimbabwe in solid waste management. It
highlights the issue of scavengers on the dumpsites and also briefly at recycling in
Zimbabwe and then goes into depth on the Recycling and Anti-Litter Programme (RAP), an
initiative by a Zimbabwean NGO, Environment 2000.It highlights the activities of RAP since
1995 and the way forward in the new millennium
Overview of Solid Waste management
How can we manage all of the waste in an environmentally sound manner; is a complex and
often controversial issue which if not properly managed can impact of the environment, the
economy and society at large. Water pollution can result not only from dumping trash
directly into the lakes, dams and rivers, but also from runoff and leaching from dumps.
Air pollution can result from faulty combustion and from decomposition gases surfacing in
landfills. Fires, explosions, noxious odours, rodents and disease also must be guarded
against in dumpsites or landfills. Any direct contact with refuse can be dangerous in some
cases to the public as well as to the waste collectors and processors (who possibly, have
among the highest risks to injury than any occupation in the nation).
Zimbabwe mainly operates with what is termed "open dump" sites which are unsafe,
unsightly and lead to long term environmental and health problems. To try and avoid these
problems, landfills are now becoming more important and an obvious way forward. For
landfills to be effective, proper siting, design and operation of disposal facilities need
to be considered. There is no single solution to our communities 'solid waste ' problem.
To effectively reduce the solid waste management problem, communities need to consider a
hierarchy of 'integrated waste management' techniques. This term refers to the
complementary use of a variety of waste management practices to safely and effectively
handle municipal solid waste with the least harmful impacts on our health and the
environment. There is a hierarchy of four levels which are:
- 1. Source Reduction
- Manufacturers may contribute to source reduction by
designing and manufacturing products that contain fewer toxins and less packaging. As
consumers, we can use our buying power to select more durable and nondisposable products,
products that have more than one "life " and those with less packaging and fewer
toxic components. One of the best ways to lessen our disposal problems is to reuse many of
the things we have habitually thrown out.
- 2. Recycling and reuse
- This is going to be the main focus of this paper. Recycling
and reuse includes composting of food and yard waste. Widespread recycling efforts prevent
potentially useful materials from being placed in landfills. Reuse of materials also saves
energy and natural resources. Recyclables are recycled to make new products.
- 3. Waste combustion and landfill
- Combustion reduces the bulk of municipal waste, while
providing the added benefit of energy production. Source reduction and recycling can make
combustion and landfill safer and more efficient by reducing the quantity and toxicity of
the waste and removing recyclables that may be difficult to combust or may cause
potentially harmful emissions.
- This is the major method of solid waste disposal utilised
world wide. It is utilised to handle waste that cannot be recycled or safely combusted.
Also residual ash from waste combustion must be disposed of in specially designed
landfills. It is likely that there will always be some portion of waste requiring landfill
no matter how efficient our reduction, recovery, treatment and recycling processes become.
We can, however, greatly reduce this portion by becoming aware of our own individual
contributions to the solid waste problem and modifying our habits to promote wise use and
reuse of our valuable resources.
It is no longer possible to hide the waste problem from the public eye as it threatens to
weaken our cities and consume valuable portions of our natural resource base. A
transparent process at local authority level is essential involving key stakeholders and A
participatory integrated waste management programme is key for long term success and this
involves transparency of all stakeholders
Solid Waste Management in Zimbabwe
Solid waste management problems are being faced by most towns and cities in Zimbabwe.
Waste collections are inefficient, dump sites are poorly managed and little action is
taken to safe guard our natural resources which we depend upon for our survival. Most
local authorities are still using the open dump method of waste disposal, however, Gweru
municipality has undertaken steps towards preparing a new sanitary landfill site with the
help of Envire (Swedish Consultants ) and are moving away from crude dumping. Waste
pickers or 'scavengers' have emerged as important 'players' in the waste management
economy in Zimbabwe and are also commonly found in other developing countries, namely
Brazil. There are a number of people who seek their livelihoods from waste, however, one
problem in Zimbabwe is that the scavengers are not officially recognised and at times face
harassment from the authorities.
- Community groups, schools, the business community ,
government and local authorities need to work together towards an integrated waste
management plan for their growth point, town or city.
Scavengers are reported in all urban centres in Zimbabwe with the highest number found in
Harare. Harare's numbers are estimated at 1200 at Golden Quarry and 40 at Pomona prior to
closure of Golden Quarry. In addition there are a number of scavengers in the city
centres, shopping centre and residential areas. They are seen carrying large numbers of
plastic milk bottles and bundles of paper. In Zimbabwe there have been few efforts to
recognise the importance of scavenging both as an integral part of the economy, reducing
the amount of waste to be disposed of by our local authorities and providing input to the
recycling industry. Rather they are stigmatised and looked upon as outcasts. To date
scavengers whilst acknowledged as a fact, tend to be referred to as a problem rather than
as a component of multiple survival strategies that is increasing especially with the
current economic hardship faced by the Zimbabwean people.
One of the few academics who have conducted research into the scavenging phenomenon is Dr
Daniel Tevera from the Geography Department of the University of Zimbabwe, whose report of
on scavenging practices at Pomona dump site in Harare was produced in 1993. Tevera states
that "municipalities can go seriously wrong in their plans for waste management if
they overlook the informal recovery and recycling that takes place without official
cognisance". He found out that people make a viable livelihood from scavenging
especially in contrast to some other informal activities. This was also confirmed by the
scavengers themselves, during Environment 2000's visit to the Pomona dump site.
- Way forward for scavengers
- Innovative initiatives to economically; and socially empower
scavengers are widespread throughout Asia and Latin America. In Zimbabwe such initiatives
are sadly missing. Clearly, banning scavenging whether by direct prohibition or as a
result of planned 'improvements' in waste management practices that deny scavengers access
to landfill sites- is neither desirable nor feasible. This is because they would probably
simply break the law and continue scavenging on the dump sites and this will lead to a
number of undesirable repercussions. The status of scavengers should be recognised by
local authorities. Official recognition should be accompanied by the establishment of
recycling stations at the landfill sites or transfer stations, access to which could be
regulated through scavenger co-operatives and by providing gloves and security clothing
for approved scavengers.
A scheme proposed for Bindura is exemplary: widows will be charged with door-to-door
collection of separated wastes which will then be transported to a recycling centre that
is to serve as a convenient location for the buyers to collect the recyclables. The
recycling station will be staffed full-time. Salaries both to the waste collectors and the
recycling station staff will be funded from the waste proceeds.
Introduction to Recycling and Reuse in Zimbabwe.
- Zimbabwe has been recycling for more than 30 years. It began
in the sixties because of economic isolation and for many years Zimbabwe was the world
leader in recycling. For nearly two decades local manufacturers operated on a shoe-string
budget which meant that little was wasted. Reusing glass bottles, metal, paper and even
water became a way of life.
However, with the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), there was a dramatic
increase in the flow of imported goods, sophisticated packaging and consequently an
increase in the volume of waste. For a while it looked as though Zimbabwe, previously a
waste conscious society, was catching the modern waste disease.
A number of recycling initiatives are
operational in Zimbabwe and there is a developed industrial recycling sector but no
central or de-centralised recycling infrastructure has been out in place by the local
authorities. Informal recycling activities are also widespread and interconnected with the
formal sector. Composting of organic waste is not yet carried our on a large scale.
Foremost among the recycling community 'initiatives
in Zimbabwe is Environment 2000's Recycling & Anti-Litter Programme (RAP). It was
established in 1995 in close Cupertino with the recycling waste disposal industry with the
aim of developing a recycling and reuse culture in Zimbabwe.
The programme has a committee made up of specialists
in the recycling field of various products. This committee is charged with improving
awareness and providing information on recycling, reuse and waste management.
The programme has set up RAP pads which are informal return centres
for recyclables in over 100 schools where recyclable waste can be taken. There is then a
link up with collecting agencies, so that sorted products can be returned for recycling.
These schools are currently collecting paper, plastic and beverage cans for recycling and
reuse whilst at the same time generating income from the waste. The Rap pads are equipped
with panel illustrating the types of waste that are accepted and a colour code to go with
RAP Pad Colour Code
Beverage Cans Blue
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA ) sponsored 32 of these RAP pads to
the tune of $105 000. This agency felt that the school system is an invaluable tool for
increasing public awareness of the problem. Teachers are in an excellent position to
enlighten our younger citizens about how waste management problems relate to them, and how
they can contribute to a solution. Children understand the world around them, a world that
faces many health and environment problems caused by inadequate pollution control
practices of the past. They get to reassess some of their present values and habits and
inspire them to make position impact upon the environment through action and
understanding. These children can then pass on the message to their parents.
Funds raised through the scheme for the co-ordinating institutions are minimal. The prime
objective of the scheme is the raising of environmental awareness.
In some of these schools environmental clubs have been formed with waste management
related activities, such as:
- The production of objects from waste materials (plastics, stockings, paper, cardboard
e.g. stools from cardboard, flowers from old socks, jingles from coke top bottles) which
are sold in students' neighbourhood. However, the students retain little of the proceeds
which mostly go either to school funds or the household budgets.
- Production of paper mache objects
- Collection of milk sachets for seedlings in the
- These clubs have an impact that goes well beyond their immediate
social context. For example Seke VI Primary School environment club was awarded an
environmental prize at the Zimbabwe Environment Trust AGM, which had positive resonance
through the student body, also as mentioned before students stimulate their parents and
other members of their households to adopt environmental responsible practices in their
every day lives.
A further expansion of the RAP pad scheme has been the pilot RAP Centre at the Nkulumane
shopping centre in Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. The developer Old Mutual
saw it essential to include a centre to provide a convenient one stop point where public
can deposit all recyclable waste. They worked together with Pearce Partnership Architects
to come up with a design for the centre. It is run by an entrepreneur who benefits from
the sale of the recyclables at the centre.
Other recycling schemes are operated by the Lions
Clubs and other charities including the Island Hospice. These are usually fund raising
initiatives, but are driven, as in the RAP scheme, by their organisers' strong
E 2000 has also been working with a co-operative who
have come up with ideas on the reuse of bottle tops which are a menace as they cannot be
recycled. Two women are making a name for themselves at exhibitions and fairs by selling
brooches, bags caps etc made from bottletops and beverage cans respectively.
Significantly there are as yet no incentives or
obligations nor infrastructure in place for household separation of wastes and subsequent
recycling of wastes. E 2000 are lobbying to have waste separation included in national
legislation and/or municipal by-laws, as a significant step towards minimising the amount
of waste that goes to the landfills and in the long term reducing, through conscientising
of consumers and waste (packaging) producers, the total amount of waste per capita
produced. They also support the establishment of recycling centres close to consumers.
The RAP programme has also grown further targeting
at households on a pilot scheme in an area called Bindura. This is a small mining town
just outside the capital city of Zimbabwe (Harare ) and their waste collection system is
almost non-existent. Ten widows in the Bindura Widows Association will be collecting waste
from households and then separating the recyclables from the non-recyclables and then
selling the recyclables on to the recycling industry .In this way the widows will be
generating some income from recyclables and also helping their local municipality in waste
Zimbabwe has a -for African standards -highly
developed formal recycling sector. A large number of materials are being collected by
organised intermediaries and used as industrial input. These include mainly paper, glass,
plastics, cans and bones. Research on the other hand has found that there are serious
constraints in the distribution chain for wastes that impinge negatively on the
livelihoods of scavengers. For example with the collapse of the kraft paper market last
year it meant that the scavengers who were collecting this type of waste had no company to
sell it to.
The major agent for waste paper is National Waste Collections (NWC). In particular locally
produced packaging in Zimbabwe relies on recycled paper. Most of the waste paper comes
from industrial areas, the commercial sector, supermarkets and the Central Business
District. All waste paper collected is paid for by NWC.
The amount of glass wastes in Zimbabwe is held low by the practice of
charging deposits on bottled drinks which act as an incentive for people to return
Nevertheless, there are commercial enterprises in addition to bottle producers and
bottlers that collect waste glass, such as Excellence Incorporated who collect on behalf
of Zimglass who reportedly prefer to recycle glass than produce new glass, due to lower
consumption and apparently better quality.
80% of Excellence's volume is from major glass users, 12% from scavengers and 8% from
households, charitable organisations and other smaller sources.
Plastics recycling is an established industry in Zimbabwe, with ten or more Harare
-based enterprises reported to be operating in the sector, in addition to some companies
who recycle their waste plastics in-house. Recycling plastics are sold in Zimbabwe and
increasingly to other African countries.
Saltrama Plastics have facilities to recycle both HDPE and LDPE plastics, and produce
granules that are sold to plastic manufacturers who in turn produce, amongst other things,
heavy duty crockery that is widespread and popular throughout Zimbabwe, as well as heavy
plastic bags and irrigation tubes.
Waste plastics are sourced from throughout Zimbabwe, principally from
commercial and industrial enterprises such as polyfilm manufacturers.
However, plastics are still a menace in Zimbabwe since the majority is still not
recyclable and alternative uses have to be found.
The arrival of the steel can as a drinking containers has been
accompanied by the establishment of Collect-a-Can. Collect-a- Can see themselves as in a
pro-active, preventative role: they say that the necessity for can recycling arose when
controls on the import of cans were lifted under the Economic Structural Adjustment Plan
Collect-a-Can concentrate on beverage cans which are baled after collection and
transported for separation and shredding to South Africa.
Clean Up Zimbabwe Campaign
Linked with RAP is the Clean Up Zimbabwe Campaign. E 2000 is a founding member of the
Clean Up The World campaign which started some six years ago with a man called Ian Kiernan
who sailed around the world and was disgusted by the amount of waste he saw. He decided to
embark on a Clean Up Sydney which lead to a Clean Up Australia and this led to Clean Up
Community clean ups provide an opportunity for individuals to take positive action to
improve their own environment.
E 2000 started this campaign in 1993 with just about 800 participants in the Clean Up
Zimbabwe Campaign in Victoria Falls. Since then every year in September Zimbabwe
commemorates this event .Most local authorities in Zimbabwe include this event on their
calendars. Some of them e.g. Masvingo municipality have now got some funds for this
campaign in their overall budget.
This campaign has seen the participation of the business community, schools , government
,individuals, churches, local authorities etc take part in what is set to be the biggest
community movement in Zimbabwe.
Last year (1998)over a million people took part in cleaning up campaign
More interesting is the fact that clean ups are now carried out throughout the year and a
change in behaviour and attitudes can do a lot towards our environment.
However, the continued challenge to the campaign is getting the involvement of the
corporate sector. This move should see some reduction in the waste on our streets. A
balanced mix of public and private sectors can lead to a much more efficient system,
incorporation of small -scale enterprises and the informal sector will hold all actors
accountable for their actions.
Solid waste management needs to have a holistic approach that includes
- participatory methods
- poverty reduction
- transparency of local authorities
- education and awareness
- integrated into policy and law
E 2000 feels that the government should put forward legislation that any new developments
by local authorities should have reclaim centres. The setting up of RAP centres would
bring collectors closer to the consumers.
- Regulations for landfill design need to be developed so as to ensure that landfills will
remain safe for many years
- Partnerships need to be formed with experienced organisations and councils.
- Awareness and education programmes should be implemented for all Zimbabweans .Action
would entail the awakening of awareness on the part of all: policy makers, consumers,
business community ,individuals etc. Environmentally conscious behaviour as well as direct
action by all has to be brought to bearing
- There should be appropriate conceptions of environmental issues in the Zimbabwean
curricula i.e. waste management
- Waste management must become a way of life for all Zimbabweans. They must realise that
they all have a role to play and can contribute to a solution to the national waste
- There should be an exchange of entrepreneurs skills to other towns and cities. i.e. the
co-operatives who make earrings from bottles or mats from plastic should train other
people in other towns their skills.
1.UNCHS/Habitat A Reference Handbook for Trainers on Promotion of Solid Waste Recycling,
2.Tevera.D (1995),Zimbabwe Urban Solid Waste Management Study (for Ministry of Local
Government ,Rural and Urban Development );cf. also his study on scavengers, Waste
Recycling as a Livelihood in the Informal Sector
3.Ngwenya .P (July 1995),Waste Management Plan for Gweru City Council
4.USEPA Lets Reduce and Recycle,(August 1990 )
5.Environment 2000 reference book on The Whys and Hows of Recycling and Reuse,(1995)
Environment 2000 P O Box A639 Avondale Harare Zimbabwe
Tel 263 4 302276 or 302886 fax 263 4 339691