Poor waste management in Harare CBD

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THERE is a piece of area at the T-junction of Central Avenue and Fifth Street in Harare now called ‘Pomona’ because of the garbage that makes the place look like a dumpsite.
Clearly, the refuse bins at this place are too small for the large quantities of litter generated by the surrounding businesses and residents.
Sunday mornings is when the Harare City Council waste management department collects refuse.
And always the refuse collectors have a torrid time sweeping or scooping the garbage which, by the time of collection, would have long overflowed from the bins.
There is a similar spot overflowing with garbage at Five Avenue Shopping Centre.
The failure by tenants of the numerous flats to find a suitable area to dispose of their garbage or untimely collection by city council has seen a dangerous explosion of dirt that gives off an offending stench.
It is not only these ‘bin points’ that have become a major scare, the street alleys have also become illegal dumping places.
The burning of refuse has become an option for apartment caretakers who are unaware of the dangers of burning unsorted garbage; there may be dangerous chemicals being released into the atmosphere.
Zimbabwe’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan has highlighted that solid waste management is currently one of the most pressing issues confronting urban authorities throughout the country.
It says that this has been caused by rapid urbanisation which has led to high population densities and sprouting illegal settlements.
It adds that changing consumption patterns have also seen a dramatic increase in urban solid waste generation.
While there has been growth in population density, it has not been matched by the necessary infrastructure and services.
Locals are yet to master the art of garbage separation as biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste is mixed.
Professor Sara Feresu of the Institute of Environmental Studies with the University of Zimbabwe highlighted the need for the separation of waste at source as a critical strategy for recycling.
“Separation of waste at source is another strategy which should be considered as the large amount of biodegradable waste spoils the quality of the recyclable waste. In a Situational Analysis of Solid Waste Management in Zimbabwe’s Urban Centres report that we did some years ago, we noticed that there was need to promote separation of waste at source.
“Reducing biodegradable solid waste through reuse, use of solid waste as feed and composting is critical because most of the waste produced in households included food and garden waste.
“But we noticed that even if the separation of waste is done at household level, the city authorities would still mix the waste and it would find its way to dumpsites. There is need to ensure that separation of waste at source is done so that it does not compromise on the quality of recycled material,” said Prof Feresu.
Environmental Management Agency spokesperson Steady Kangata said reduction of waste produced is crucial in waste management.
“First and foremost, we need to reduce the amount of waste generated at any given point. This starts from shopping where one needs to use a shopping bag and not buying a plastic bag helps to reduce the amount of waste,” Kangata said.
“There is need for sustainable consumption and production. If one is not able to reuse the bottles of peanut butter after finishing the contents and the biodegradable material such as vegetable trimmings and crust can be put in flower pots. There is need to manage waste or else you have outbreaks of diseases (sic).”
Harare City Council’s spokesperson Michael Chideme said the council would continue to engage the public on waste management.
“In most cases, we are failing to collect litter on time because of equipment breakdown and we cannot guarantee that a refuse truck in the garage today can be back the next day. This is why we continue to educate residents on proper waste disposal. It is not all waste that is waste, so we encourage people to properly clean and resell the waste that is recyclable,” said Chideme.
“We are promoting separation of waste at source with those who can compost doing so. If we find the waste mixed up, we just carry it like that and scavengers at Pomona then separate it and sell what they can. Sunningdale Shopping Centre has a model of the separation at source that we are promoting.”
Agriculture and cultural expert Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki said traditionally, there was less garbage and wastage, especially of foodstuffs.
“Waste is also a result of food cooked in excess. Our grandparents were more conscious of the need to preserve food. Families would have dogs that would be given leftovers. Food was never prepared in excess. They knew hari yayikwana munhu wese (the pot enough for everyone) and munya (leftover sadza) would be fed to children in the mornings,” said Prof Mpepereki.
“The pestle and mortar food processing routine was labour-intensive hence one could not afford to be wasteful. These factors forced people to look after their food. Even the leftover vegetables were carefully preserved into mufushwa (dried vegetables).
“What is prevailing now is a culture of being wasteful by the seemingly more affluent people with urban lifestyles that result in wasting food. The school curriculum should include these issues so that our children may learn to conserve.”
In his research paper entitled Community-based waste management in urban areas, Alexio Mubaiwa writes: “Throughout Zimbabwe, urban waste collection rates dropped from at least 80 percent (mid-1990s) to as low as 30 percent in some large cities and small towns [1]. Currently, more than 2,5 million tonnes of household and industrial wastes are produced per annum in urban areas and this continues to rise due to unprecedented urban growth rates and absence of waste minimisation strategies. Areas worst affected are low-income residential areas and informal settlements, with some not receiving service at all.
Low waste collection levels have triggered widespread illegal open dumping and backyard incineration. This has created negative environmental impacts and increased the health risk of the residents. Open waste dumps are prime breeding sites for houseflies, rodents, mosquitoes and other vectors of communicable diseases such as fever, dysentery, diarrhea, cholera and malaria.
Fumes from burning waste cause acute respiratory infections and the odours make the environment uninhabitable. The leachate from the dumpsite pollutes underground water, which is an important alternative water source for the residents. Loose papers and plastics blown by wind result in an aesthetic intrusion of the surrounding environment.”

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