Turning trash into treasure in Harare’s public spaces

Litter at Robert Mugabe Unity Square Pic By Shepherd Tozvireva

Kudzanai Mumhare (34) of Harare's Kambuzuma suburb is arranging tonne bags to pack litter that has accumulated in the Robert Mugabe Unity square soon after a political rally. 

Mumhare, a plastic recycler and passionate environmental activist together with his quintet group, collect litter strewn in public spaces and later sell this waste to industries after grading and processing it. 

This group responds to the enormous amounts of waste generated during rallies and other public events such as musical shows where large numbers of people often gather.

He says rallies and concerts have made it easy for them to gather large amounts of waste at one place without hustle.

Political parties dish out food, drinks and water to their supporters who attend their rallies. These supporters leave litter at the venues which Mumhare and his team regard as "gold". 

Instead of letting this waste end up in landfills or pollute the environment, Mumhare and his team have stepped up to collect it and transform it into valuable resources.

With their dedication to the cause, these recyclers are turning a previously overlooked source of pollution into a valuable resource

In an interview with NewsDay Mumhare said, "We saw rallies and shows as potential opportunities to tackle waste management issues while also earning an income. It felt like a win-win situation. Not only do we contribute to a cleaner environment, but we also get paid for the plastic we collect and recycle," he said.

Another group member who joined this recycling group in 2020 said : "I was working for a local security company before and when I got fired I had no way to start from for me to provide for my family. However I later joined this group of plastic recyclers although I had no faith in it, surprisingly I am getting a good income from it right now my first born is Grade 7 and I am looking forward to send him to a good secondary school next year from this business," said a woman who identified herself as Mai Taku. 

Recycling of trash to useful materials has become a lucrative industry in Zimbabwe. The trade has attracted a number of people as they seek ways to earn a living. 

The collected plastic waste and metal cans are carefully sorted and then transported to recycling facilities where it is processed into resalable materials.

At the market recycling companies buy different types of plastic such as Low-Density Polythene (LDPE); High Density Polythene (HDPE); Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET); Poly vinyl chloride and Polypropylene.

These materials are used by various industries to manufacture new products, reducing the demand for virgin plastic production, which is both resource-intensive and contributes to environmental degradation.

According to Tinashe Ntuli, a recycling expert from Ages Industrial Solutions (AIS) the prices of recycled material range from US$0.15 per kg of polypropylene products, $0.20 per kg for PET up to about $0.50 depending on the type of material. 

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) notes that Zimbabwe generates about 1.9 million tonnes of waste annually. Of this waste, plastic waste alone amounts to approximately 342 000 tonnes per annum, which is about 18 % of the total waste in Zimbabwe.

While the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) states that solid waste management remains one of the most pressing environmental challenges for the country.

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