WHEN you throw out your takataka (junk) where does it go? Sometimes it is collected, sometimes it rots on the roadside, and sometimes it is burned. Perhaps, a better question is where should it go?
In a perfect world we would separate our takataka into different categories (plastics, metals, organic materials, paper, etc) and place it on the roadside in a bin or heavy plastic bag to deter pests. Then, a collector would pass by to collect each ward's takataka on a given day. The takataka would then be taken to the city's main dump site or recycling centre and managed accordingly.
However, this is unimaginable when we look at the state of our current system. Most of our solid-waste is barely making it past the front our our homes.
All cities around the world deal with the daily headache of solid waste management. However, some do it better than others. We can learn a lot about solid waste management by looking at the best practices of other cities like our own.
What exactly are other cities like Dar es Salaam doing?
As of 2006 the Rwandan government outlawed plastic bags in the country to reduce waste. The use of paper and reusable bags was promoted instead. A nation-wide clean up was organized and citizens collected garbage from streams, gutters, roadsides, cities and villages.
In Durban, South Africa illegal dumping and indiscriminate littering is a major challenge. Recently the city has started paying homeless people, who had previously been engaged informally in garbage collection, per each kilogramme of waste that they collected and delivered to the collection point.
This initiative will help reduce the amount of litter in the city and provide jobs for those who were informally unemployed in the past. One of the long term implications of this project is a reduction in the amount of solid waste going to the dumpsite. Instead it is now going to recycling companies. As a result the lifespan of the landfill site will be increased.
The city of Joal in Senegal is practising organic and inorganic solid waste separation. Households place food scraps and other compostable items into one bin and non-compostable items into another. Plastic is also collected, melted down into pellets and resold to plastic manufactures in Dakar.
The operation of this programme is financed by the sales of 50kg bags of compost.
Urban Beautification and Urban Health
According to Forbes business magazine Dar es Salaam is the 12th dirtiest city in the world. However, in a recent UN-Habitat survey four out of five Dar es Salaam residents reported the city to be clean!
Aesthetics aside, there are other reasons why efficient, city-wide solid waste management is important. Unmanaged solid waste can create health hazards such as cholera, especially in unplanned settlements (the home of four out of five Dar es Salaam residents) where people are living in close proximity to the solid waste they generate.
An improved management system, where solid waste is being removed, recycled and disposed of accordingly, also translates into improved health for all, and a reduced cost to the health care system.
What are we doing about it as a city?
Currently, Dar es Salaam does not have the adequate financial and material resources to manage solid waste. If it did, then we would not have to burn garbage or watch it rot along the roadsides.
Fortunately, the importance of management is being recognized at the governmental level.
The Citywide Action Plan for Upgrading Unplanned and Unserviced Settlements in Dar es Salaam is a document that has resulted from technical cooperation between the Government of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam City Council and UN-Habitat. This action plan lists solid waste management as a priority for improving urban living conditions.
For example, The Action Plan intends to improve area maps and knowledge of solid waste collection points to prevent garbage from being disposed of in the street. It also plans to enhance record keeping and coordination of private entrepreneurs and communities engaged in solid waste management.
This plan is good news for any resident of Dar es Salaam, but it will be expensive. The implementation of the Basic Services Action Plan (which includes other services, such as access roads and adequate, safe drinking water) is estimated to cost Tshs 402.48 billion (US$296.60 million). Where will these funds come from?
According to UN-Habitat funds for this upgrading plan will be generated through community contributions, the private sector, municipal and city revenue sources, the central government and development partners.
UN-Habitat, along with its other partners, plan to employ solid waste management companies in the private sector, as well as private entrepreneurs, to transfer the solid waste from primary collection points (like households) and transfer stations to the dumpsite at Pugu..
If the solid waste management system is to be privatized these firms and individuals should be locally based in order to encourage investment in local businesses. Jobs that could be done by local people should not be outsourced to solid waste management companies from abroad.
An Example from Kinondoni District
According to municipal representatives from Kinondoni, residents are willing to pay for solid waste collection in their district. However, that is only if an adequate service is provided.
Currently, trucks are limited and garbage removal is rare. For instance, most paths and roads in unplanned settlements are inaccessible by vehicle.
As a result the service is inadequate due to the lack of capacity for trucks to remove the solid waste from the transfer station in a quickly and efficient manner. Solid waste collection gets backed up and can remain at the ward-level transfer stations for long periods of time.
Kinondoni District has recently received trailers to move solid waste from central ward transfer stations to the Pugu dumpsite yet possesses few tractors or large trucks to pull the trailers. What use is a trailer if there is nothing to pull it with?
The situation is not much better for garbage collectors either. For instance, in Sinza Ward collectors are paid 3,500/- per day to remove takataka from households and bring it to a central collection point.
However, the ward does not supply pushcarts for these collectors. They must rent a push cart daily for 1,500/-. So, if two men work together six days in a week, then each worker’s average pay is 71,500/- per month. Their working conditions are unsanitary, difficult and undesirable.
Recycling and composting
Recycling can be a profitable endeavour if the correct systems are in place. Glass, metal and plastic recycling is happening in Dar es Salaam informally and without coordination.
Formal systems, however, such as municipal recycling stations have not been set up to promote and facilitate city- and nation-wide recycling. This needs to change, not only for the sake of our urban environment, but to encourage the implementation of a formalized recycling industry.
Non-governmental organizations, such as the Bill Clinton Foundation's Clinton Climate Initiative, as well as the three municipalities, are interested in the prospect of separating organic matter from inorganic waste.
The majority of the waste collected in Dar es Salaam is biodegradable (such as food scraps, etc) and can be composted and used in nurseries and gardens. If done correctly over 70% of the solid waste created in Dar es Salaam could forgo the journey to Pugu dumpsite, trips taken to the transfer stations and dumpsite could be reduced, and the price of this solid waste collection could be reduced.
Over 140,000 people migrate to Dar es Salaam every year. This translates into more waste, and in turn, a heavier burden on the already incapable system. In the words of President Jakaya Kikwete: “....If we do not contain this trend, our urban areas will become jungles of unplanned, unregulated and poorly serviced concrete structures.”
If we fail to meet the basic needs of the residents of Dar es Salaam today, then how will we meet the needs of a larger urban population in the future?
What problem do you face in your community? What ideas do you have about how to solve it? Maybe we can help. Tell us your problem and your proposed solution in a brief letter outlining the problem and why it exists, what you propose to do to resolve it, what you would expect the benefits for your community and what help you feel you need to accomplish it.
We are interested in solutions to problems that are dedicated to enhancing the livelihoods of residents of Dar es Salaam in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.
*The writer of this article, Afton Halloran, is a project officer with Sustainable Cities: PLUS Network Africa Project