Zimbabwe:Harare City developing an integrated solid waste management plan to address long-time nagging challenges

By Wallace Mawire

 The city of Harare has developed its integrated solid waste management strategic draft plan running from 2021 to 2036 to address challenges related to solid waste management.

 Various stakeholders met in Harare in September, 2021 to review and finalise the plan.

 The plan has been developed at a time the city of Harare is facing serious challenges in solid waste management.

According to document presented by Donald Sakupwanya, Harare City Council, Cleansing Superitendent, the council is operating with an inadequate set of waste management equipment and provisions.

According to the head of waste management, only 16 out of 32 trucks are operational against a rise in demand for refuse collection necessitated by rapid urban development.

It is also added the current pricing model for refuse collection is such that ratepayers are not meeting the full cost of refuse collection services,  creating a deficit and hampering effective and efficient refuse collection.

It is reported that the existing refuse collection and transportation fleet is inadequate and old, meaning increased repairs and down time, which is also reported to contribute to the challenges.

It is said that Harare has 15 compactors when it says it needs 40 compactors.

The report says that Harare City’s incapacity is leading to irregular refuse collection. In addition, the city is reported to be unable to adequately cover the whole city in its refuse collection services.

It is added that Harare is still using a dumpsite, Pomona as its final waste disposal facility.

“There are frequent fire outbreaks at the site and a major fire outbreak in 2020 triggered the processes that led into the development of this integrated solid waste management plan,” the report notes.

Other factors that are reported to mitigate against efficient and effective waste management in Harare include the city being predominantly using the refuse collection and disposal model where all the waste is collected and transported and disposed, no fully fledged waste management department or vision in the council structures, waste management being within the Department of Works whose mandate goes beyond refuse collection, transport and disposal.

This is reported to predominantly consists of waste collection, transportation and disposal at Pomona. However the city is reported to have set up two  waste to energy plants utilising organic waste.

It is added that without such a plan, the council’s capacity to make informed decisions around solid waste management is limited.

It is further added there are no plans and systems to help the city council to account for the waste generated within Harare and this also undermines its ability to make informed decisions on waste management.

It is said that for example, some material recovery is taking place within Harare, but Harare City Council does not have a systematic account of waste management activities being undertaken by other stakeholders.

Other factors highlighted include there being other stakeholders involved in solid waste management in Harare, but there being no formal synergy with the council.

The report says that this represents an opportunity for the council to improve the overall waste management within Harare through combined effort, synchronising activities and maximising the overall effectiveness of overall waste management efforts within Harare.

It is added that waste dumping on open grounds is prevalent in the city including overflows of waste from council receptacles due to irregular collection.

It is added that the demand of waste management services is outstripping service provision and with the rate of urbanisation the gap is widening.

The report notes that Harare city has no facilities such as a weigh bridge to establish waste generation quantities.

It says that the most recent figures available are based on a waste characterisation study carried out as part of the integrated solid waste management initiative.

The report notes that the absence of reliable waste accounting is undermining the city’s capacity for sound planning and decision making in solid waste management.

It is added that landfill fires at the Pomona dumpsite are a common occurrence and one such landfill fire in 2020 caught the city council ill-prepared to deal with it and took at least two weeks to contain it at a huge cost. It is also reported that the city only managed to contain the fire with the financial and material support from well-wishers.

The report further notes that Harare city is struggling to have 100% coverage in terms of waste collection with some areas of the city not being covered.

“Waste management costs are outstripping revenue generated for managing the waste, the council is in a perennial deficit. With the expansion of urbanisation that does not take into account a corresponding waste management capacity, the deficit will grow and worsen the situation into the future,” the report says.

The report says that traditional refuse management systems consist of a simple process whereby the local authorities collect and transport waste and dispose it at selected waste disposal sites such as disused pits or on some open ground.

Its reported that, this refuse collection, transport and disposal approach is not financially and environmentally sustainable and is very expensive.

Many cities and towns especially in high-income countries are reported to have since abandoned this model and have shifted to more efficient integrated solid waste management models.

These models comprise of a set of waste treatment methods and strategies whose main objectives are to prevent, or reduce as much as possible, the generation of solid waste, to divert as much waste as possible from landfilling, to improve the efficiency in solid waste management and to increase both waste collection rates as well as spatial overage in terms of waste collection.

Prevention and reduction of waste is primarily at the production, packaging and consumption stages of the waste chain, achieved through sustainable production, packaging and consumption policies, strategies and activities.

Diversion of waste from the landfill involves interception as much of reusable waste as possible before it reaches a landfill and treat it in other forms such as composting, recovery as material and resources for reuse, new use and recycling and for energy recovery through either incineration or other biological and chemical processes.

It is reported that the development of an Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWM) involves the selection of a set of waste treatment options that will best achieve the objectives of minimising the generation of waste and as well as divert as much of the generated waste from the landfill as possible.

The report adds that any treatment options selected must be selected taking into account sustainability issues including technical, financial, social, political and environmental as well as the unique situation of the local authority.

 In Zimbabwe, the resort town of Kariba has developed a functional integrated solid waste management plan which the city of Harare is trying to emulate.

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