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Recycling — answer to urban garbage

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Local councils are failing to collect refuse from companies and residential areas throughout the country.

Roadsides and street corners have been turned into dumping sites and other people have resorted to burning or burying litter.

Residents in Highfield suburb said they have resorted to making composite with the litter, but the problem is that plastics, which make up most of the refuse in urban households, do not easily decompose.

“The city council has been found wanting when it comes to refuse collection. Their garbage collection timetable is erratic as they go for days without collecting the litter. When they do come, instead of warning people that they have arrived, they choose to go racing through, leaving many bins uncollected, so we have resorted to making humus with the litter.

“But the problem is plastics do not easily decompose and we end up dumping them at the roadsides or in open spaces,” said Tafadzwa Magwaza, a Highfield resident.

Some residents, like Yemurai Dande, said they have opted to burn the waste: “We burn our waste, but some of the containers are toxic and we end up being choked.”

Speaking at the anti-littering campaign launch, Zimbabwe Urban Environment Waste Management Trust (ZUEWMT) director Misheck Kanotunga said there was a growing concern over pollution due to uncontrolled dumping sites.

“Dumping sites are not being managed properly and we have to make sure we manage them checking how we dump our litter,” said Kanotunga.

Residents of Westlea, where the Harare City Council’s Pomona dumping site is located have complained about the pungent odour which emanates from the dumping site. When the litter is being burnt, the residents are choked by the smoke for days.

“The city fathers should know how to dispose of the litter without affecting us. Some of us have asthma and we find it difficult when they are burning the waste,” said one Westlea resident.

Kanotunga added that local authorities were failing due to incapacity, which has prompted his organisation to intervene.

ZUEWMT is a non-governmental organisation formed to establish and co-ordinate community-based groups and provide education on recovery, re-use and recycling of waste.

“We are increasingly concerned about it, so we are saying let’s know how to dispose of our waste. This habit of just dumping waste is contaminating our underground water and increasing diseases. Litter emits gases which can be dangerous to both humans and animals.

“Water-borne diseases like typhoid develop. Burning waste is also not safe. The resultant fumes can be toxic and that’s a source of other diseases through inhalation,” he said.

Many people are perplexed when told that either dumping or burning of waste poses a serious health hazard and is bad for the environment; they have been left with no other option.

An environmental activist, Henry Madhiri, said it was high time the country embarked on a massive recycling exercise.

Recycling is processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from land filling) by lessening the need for “conventional” waste disposal. This would result in lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production.

Madhiri said most countries have adopted recycling as the answer to municipalities’ perennial waste problems.

Statistics published in an Environmental Green journal showed that by recycling one plastic bottle not only saves anywhere from 100 to 1000 years in the landfill, but also saves the environment from the emissions in producing new bottles as well as the oil used to produce that bottle.

“For every tonne of plastic that is recycled, we save the equivalent of two people’s energy use for one year, the amount of water used by one person in two months’ time and almost 2 000lbs of oil.

“Today, the most common products in urban recycling programmes are paper products, cardboard, plastic, glass and aluminium. Approximately 60% of rubbish thrown out today can be recycled,” noted the organisation.

Madhiri added that recycling benefits are priceless and urged the government and councils to invest in recycling.

“Recycling approximately one ton of newspapers saves 17 trees. Each tonne of recycled paper saves four barrels of oil, and uses 58% less water. Recycled paper production uses 40% less energy than virgin paper production.

“Recycled newsprint yields an average of 73% reusable product. This is the result after the ink and moisture are removed. Sawdust and wood shavings saved from manufactured wood products are recycled into paper grocery bags, corrugated boxes and other products,” he said.

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