DOREEN NAWA, Lusaka
IN MOST urban areas in Zambia, only a small fraction of the waste generated daily is collected and safely disposed. The rest is anyone’s guess.
For Lusaka, the city generates about one million tonnes of waste annually, according to the city’s Waste Management Unit (WMU). But only half of this is taken to the designated dump site.
For years, waste management has emerged as one of the greatest challenges facing Lusaka City.
It is not a new problem though.
But the volume of waste being generated continues to increase at a faster rate than the ability of the city authorities to improve on the financial and technical resources needed to parallel this growth.
Currently, the Lusaka City Council (LCC) is struggling to manage the waste under tight budgets; highly-inadequate and malfunctioning equipment. This is evidenced from the inefficient collection practices with variable levels of service, poor and unhygienic operating practices in the waste management in the city.
The local authority seems too handicapped to redeem the situation anytime soon.
But council public relations manager George Sichimba says Lusaka city is facing challenges in managing waste because of the indiscriminate illegal dumping and littering, and a public which is seemingly not sensitive to the garbage around it or indeed has any awareness of what represents responsible waste management.
“As a local authority, we cannot deny the fact that we have challenges in managing our waste in the city,” Mr Sichimba admits.
“There are a lot of illegal players in waste management. We have laws in place that prohibit people from indiscriminate waste disposal but people are not sensitive. Enforcing this law has been a challenge. And since they are not registered, they do not dump the waste they collect at the designated place, Chunga dumpsite. They instead dump such waste anywhere and mostly in the night.”
Chunga dumpsite sits on a 10 acre land, north of Lusaka City.
“Only a quarter of the land at Chunga dumpsite is being utilised. The current status of the site looking full are just artificial, the problem is that we do not have equipment to compact the waste, as a result, the management of this waste has been challenging,” Mr Sichimba says.
The council public relations manager however says plans are under way in the 2018 budget to purchase equipment that will compact waste at the Chunga dump site.
“We need specialised equipment to handle the waste in Lusaka because it is mainly plastic,” Mr Sichimba said.
Kenya recently became the latest country to ban plastic bags.
Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of US$40,000. It is said to be the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution to come into effect. It took Kenya three attempts over a period of 10 years to finally pass the law.
There are more than 40 countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use of plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy.
The Guardian of the United Kingdom quoted Habib El-Habr, an expert on marine litter working with the United Nations environment programme in Kenya as saying plastic bags take between 500 to 1,000 years to break down, and also enter the human food chain through fish and other animals.
In fact, in slaughterhouses in Kenya’s capital, some cows destined for human consumption had 20 bags removed from their stomachs.
In Lusaka, and indeed in the rest of the country, plastic is everywhere.
Plastic is used in everything from the keyboard or pen, to contact lenses, plates and even banknotes in your wallet. It’s in your clothes, phone, car, mattress, and television screen.
Plastics have been used extensively in both food and water packaging in Zambia all because they are easy to carry.
Plastic bottles and sachets used to package iced water that is sold to people in transit points and in moving vehicles have become widespread countrywide.
However, the packaging revolution has not been correspondingly backed by appropriate plastic waste management policy, which has left many cities in the country littered with plastic wastes; thus, creating disgusting visual nuisances and other public health problems.
“The plastic bags we have in Lusaka are so flimsy that millions of them only get used once before being thrown away, you see them in the trees, in the hedges and on the ground,” observes Peter Chulu, a Lusaka resident identifying himself as an environmental activist. “They are everywhere and when they settle on the ground, they collect small pools of stagnant water, in which mosquitos breed now that its rain season, the situation gets worse.”
He says plastic can be flexible or rigid but its lightness also makes it very appealing.
But he believes that overall, plastic is a major environmental issue.
He also points an accusing finger at shopping malls.
“Have you ever considered shopping malls as sources of environmental pollution? This is actually a fact in many cases due to several activities usually associated with shopping malls or shopping centers,” Mr Chulu says. “There is need for shopping malls to find a way of managing the waste that their malls generate.”
But there are exceptions.
Foxdale Court in Lusaka’s Roma is one.
From its inception, its waste disposal has been organised in a way that separates all the paper, cardboard, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and food waste.
Foxdale founder and managing director Angelika Andersen says from the time the mall opened, its management decided to have their own waste management initiatives.
“The paper, cardboard, plastic bags and plastic bottles are collected or delivered to recycling companies around Lusaka,” Angelika says. “The food waste is loaded into a series composting machines, located in our waste management area. The food waste is mixed with sawdust and turned on a daily basis. The food waste turns into compost within a four to six week period. The compost is used in the gardens around Foxdale Court.”
If there is one thing that Foxdale has proved, it is that recycling is key to managing waste. Also awareness raising. Every year on June 5, Foxdale Court organises activities to commemorate the World Environment Day.
“For me, one of the major challenges is our attitude towards the environment. We don’t have a healthy attitude right now,” says Gwendoline Chilufya of Lusaka’s Rhodespark area. “If we can develop that healthy attitude towards the environment, the environment becomes a better place for everybody. You should not have to wait for somebody to tell you to do the right thing. You know yourself that it is not right to litter the environment.”
To ensure effective management of waste, the LCC works in partnership with private waste management companies which service conventional and peri-urban areas in the city. Currently, the council has 16 waste management districts (WMD), and of these, 14 are manned by the private sector while the other two are under the council; these are Kamwala and the central business district.
“We have franchise contracts with private companies. A franchise contract provides a private waste collector with the sole right and obligation to collect and transport waste from all premises in a franchised waste management district to the dump site,” Mr Sichimba says.
The franchise collector awarded with a franchise contract has the responsibility for setting and collecting waste fees for the services provided.
“The fee is however subject to a ceiling set by the council. The waste collector determines the type pf waste receptacles (bags, bins or containers), subject to approval by the council. The fees vary depending on the residential areas,” he says.
However, the maximum fees the waste management companies may charge are subject to negotiations on behalf of the community by LCC.