Waste to be a big burden in Africa

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People sift through the rubbish at the Olusosum dump site. The site is government run by the agency Lagos Waste Management Authority ( LAWMA ) and is one of 6 sites taking in general waste from all over Lagos. E-waste is not allowed on site, but some does appear from the general waste collected. Local people are making a living out of selling their collections for recycling. Some of the people live on site, too poor to pay for accommodation elsewhere.

Africa is heading down a path where waste management will become a bigger burden than had been presented by COVID-19 and the climate crisis. 

Across the waste value chain in Africa, no deliberate efforts have been made to reduce waste at the source. Many African countries have strong waste collection legislation, but not one country has been able to get it right with waste disposal plans. 

Greenhouse gas emissions are strongly linked to waste disposal, and the waste sector has been found to contribute more than 5% of global GHG emissions.

The Africa Waste Initiative proposal by the Egyptian government, which aims at treating and recycling 50% of the waste produced in Africa by 2050 as a way of catalysing both adaptation and mitigation solutions, is a step of utmost concern given how the waste sector is contributing strongly to the global climate crisis. 

However, treating and recycling 50% of the waste produced in Africa is not enough because we will still have to battle the threats of waste to energy (WTE), and the negative impacts associated with the waste dumps and disposal sites in Africa.

The best initiative for Africa is a “Zero Waste” plan, which constitutes the real solution that needs to be embraced as parts of the alternative by policy makers across the globe to resolve the waste and climate crises.

Zero waste, if adopted, will:

  • Reduce greenhouse gases, combat climate change, preserve, and restore environmental resources through increased use of compost products and reducing the need for inorganic fertilizer,
  • Support a swift transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy products, as many products produced from fossil fuels would naturally be phased out since they will no longer be needed.
  • All existing waste dump sites will be phased out in favour of a “resource site,” which will better support the circular economy principle.
  • Help make waste management policies start working in Africa,
  • Recognize the rights of waste pickers as a viable stakeholder in the waste management sector.

Recycling alone is not enough to address the global waste crisis. It is just an option, therefore, to go zero waste, African countries need to start attacking sources of raw material extraction, Stopping single-use plastic and reducing waste at the source is what is needed for recycling to be effective.

Africa needs to adopt a pro-people Zero Waste Plan that eliminates all forms of false solutions such as landfilling, incineration, WTE, and open dumping

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