The dramatic increase in Lusaka’s population over the years has given rise to the indiscriminate disposal of litter that now poses a threat to health and the environment.
The attractiveness and cleanliness of the capital city has gradually deteriorated over the years, partly as a result of the ever-increasing litter. This has resulted in the creation of a public health problem where drainage systems are clogged by the refuse. This unavoidably leads to the transmission of communicable – but avoidable – diseases such as cholera and typhoid during the rainy season.
Research shows that only 26 percent of the estimated 900 tons of waste that is generated daily in Lusaka is collected via formal services; and that 34 percent of the 900 tons produced a day is recyclable.
Manja Pamodzi is a response to the challenge of this waste. It is a community-driven project that is helping to clean up post-consumer packaging waste in Lusaka, improving sanitation and hygiene as a result.
As the name suggests, Manja Pamodzi is bringing together the community and relevant stakeholders such as Zambian Breweries, National Breweries, Heinrich’s Syndicate and the city councils starting initially with Lusaka City Council, to clean up the environment and at the same time create enterprise opportunities.
So far the project, in Lusaka, has 74 registered collectors and one active aggregator, Harrison Musonda in Chunga compound. Some 75 tonnes of cartons have been collected since February 2015 and 1.6 tonnes of PET plastic bottles since August this year.
Members of the initiative, known as collectors, are identified through environmental education and sensitisation drives with a bias towards recycling. These collectors gather PET plastic bottles, cardboard and other recyclable materials from target areas in their communities. Aggregators buy the material in bulk and process it into bundles that are then sold to recycling companies to be processed into useable items such as tissue.
“The project is welcome as it is allowing us to turn what we would otherwise consider as garbage into an income earning activity to help with the running of our households,” said Joyce Mwale, a mother of nine in Chawama compound and who is among the first to have joined the initiative.
The project has already received strong support from the government. During the official launch of the project in August, which was graced by officials from the Lusaka City Council and central government, Her Honour, The Vice President, Hon. Inonge Wina, in a speech read on her behalf by Local Government and Housing Deputy Minister, Hon. Nicholas Banda, said: “Government is pleased and impressed by the Manja Pamodzi initiative. Manja Pamodzi is a timely response to this problem of urban waste.”
“The fact that this initiative is a community-based recycling project, and that it is linked to environmental education is a sure-fire way to drastically alter people’s attitude toward waste. Not only this, but Manja Pamodzi goes a step further – by also developing business opportunities for community entrepreneurs,” she went on to say.
The project will consistently provide enterprise prospects for collectors. It is envisaged that this will give them the platform to jump-start businesses they were previously unable to start; to give substance to their children’s academic aspirations; and improve livelihoods.
The project, which is currently in its infancy, has collection points in Chawama, Kamwala, Ngwerere, and Chunga. Others are expected to follow as the project gains momentum in more communities.
“My plea is to establishments of all sorts to work with the collectors when approached so that the project can move forward. We will be cleaning up the environment in the process and making progress towards a litter free Zambia,” said Elaine Kafwimbi, Project Manager of the initiative.
‘Reward recycling’ as it is commonly known among experts is a system practised in several countries around the world such as Brazil and South Africa. In Brazil for instance these programs include the exchange of recyclable material with vegetables or other valuables. In Zambia, it is practised in the informal sector on a very small scale and it is not uncommon to see people going around in the neighbourhoods exchanging things such as PET or glass bottles for grass brooms which they later sell to recycling houses. Other times it is these informal collectors that can be seen sorting through piles of trash at dumping sites around the city.
Zambian Breweries and National Breweries Managing Director Annabelle Degroot explained: “As Zambia has experienced exponential growth, our businesses have produced more to meet the demand of our consumers. These products often come in convenient packaging such as plastic. This combined with the lack of a reliable waste collection system and a low level awareness of the effects of waste in our communities have meant that our streets and drainage systems have become more and more polluted with litter. At Zambian Breweries we sell the majority of our products in returnable glass bottles that are recycled many times before they are disposed of. But year-on-year our consumers are asking for more of their soft drinks in PET plastic bottles. At National Breweries, we produce Chibuku in cartons and now more recently in PET plastic bottles known as Chibuku Super. Likewise our Maheu from Heinrich’s Beverages is produced in HDPE plastic bottles. We therefore took the decision over a year ago to find a solution to the waste problem that we contribute to on the streets.”