Recycling: the answer to waste woes

Local councils countrywide are failing in their duty to offer a reliable refuse collection service, resulting in street corners becoming rubbish dumps and locals either burying or burning their waste. In Highfield suburb, some residents are making compost with their biodegradable waste, but most of the rubbish being thrown away does not fall into this category.

Rubbish burning at Mbare market.
Rubbish burning at Mbare market.

“The city council has failed us. Their timetable is erratic and they go for days without collecting the litter,” said Tafadzwa Magwaza, a Highfield resident. Another local, Yemurai Dande, said they had no choice but to burn their waste.

“We burn our waste, but some of the containers are toxic and we end up being choked,” said Dande.

Speaking at a recent Anti-littering campaign launch, Zimbabwe Urban Environment Waste Management Trust director, Misheck Kanotunga, said there was growing concern over pollution due to uncontrolled dumping sites.

“Dumping sites are not being managed properly and we have to make sure we can control how and where we dump our litter,” said Kanotunga.

Residents of Westlea, where the Harare City council’s dumping site is located, have complained about the strong odour coming from the area when litter is burnt.

“The council should know how to dispose of the litter without affecting us. Some of us have asthma and we find it difficult to breathe when they burn the waste,” said one Westlea resident.

Kanotunga added that local authorities were failing due to lack of funds, which had prompted his organisation to intervene. ZUEWMT is a non-governmental organisation formed to establish and co-ordinate community-based groups to provide education on recovery, re-use and recycling of waste.

“We are increasingly concerned about it, so we are saying let’s learn how to dispose of our waste. This habit of just dumping waste is contaminating our underground water and increasing diseases. Litter emits gases which can be dangerous to both humans and animals,” he said. “Burning waste is also not safe. The resultant fumes can be toxic and that’s a source of other diseases through inhalation.”

An environmental activist with a local non-governmental organisation, Henry Madhiri, said it was high time the country embarked on a massive recycling exercise. “Japan is a good model of how to successfully recycle litter. Recycling in Japan has provided employment and it’s a $360billion industry,” said Madhiri.

Statistics from Environmental Green show that for every one tonne of plastic that is recycled, we save the equivalent of two people’s energy use for one year, the amount of water used by one person over two months time and almost 2000 pounds of oil.

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