The sub-Saharan Africa region is among the lowest producers of municipal solid waste (MSW) globally, exhibiting the trend of decreased waste volumes in areas of low per capita income and sluggish urbanisation rates.
With a high correlation between income levels and the rate of urbanisation, a recent report by the World Bank on solid waste management has determined that, as disposable income and standards of living increase, so too do the consumption of goods and services, as well as the subsequent generation of waste.
Interestingly, as a country urbanises and the wealth of its population increases, the consumption of inorganic materials – such as plastics, glass and aluminium – increases, while the relative organic fraction decreases.
Waste generation in Southern Africa amounts to around 62-million tons a year, with an indivi- dual generating between 0.09 kg and 3 kg of municipal waste a day – an average of 0.65 kg per person a day.
This is considerably lower than the international average of 1.2 kg.
In addition, the report predicts a sharp rise in the generation of MSW by urban residents between 2012 and 2025, with figures expected to rise from the current 1.3-billion tons a year to 2.2-billion tons a year.
Much of this increase is expected to originate in the rapidly growing cities of developing States.
The fastest growing waste generator is China, followed closely by areas of Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
The yearly global cost of solid waste manage- ment is projected to rise from the current $205- billion a year to $375-billion a year, with costs increasing most dramatically in developing countries.
Tellingly, the World Bank Economics and Urban Development Department lead urban specialist Dan Hoornweg says that while these results are not surprising, they should be considered a wake-up call for national policymakers.
“The challenges surrounding MSW are going to be enormous and will be on par with the current challenges we are experiencing with regard to climate change,” he warns.
Critical to the formulation of an effective and integrated solid waste management plan in urban centres is consultation with and input from stakeholders, including citizen groups, environmental organisations and public health specialists.
Further, the report advocates that government response to municipal waste management challenges should include a dedicated public awareness campaign and the application of pricing mechanisms to stimulate consumer behaviour in reducing waste generation and increasing recycling.
Further policy recommendations include linking the user charges to the quantity of waste disposed and promoting preferential procurement policies and pricing to stimulate demand for products made with recycled post-consumer waste.