How can waste management drive green growth?

07Jun2018
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by Maria Leonor Sales

In Africa, solid waste management is a major developmental challenge with serious consequences for environmental quality, public health, fisheries, agriculture, and sustainable development. Today, most African countries lack the resources, infrastructures, skills and expertise necessary to tackle the amount and complexity of solid waste being produced. Currently, 19 out of the world’s 50 biggest dumpsites are located in Africa. High population growth, urbanization rates, and new consumption pathways will exacerbate waste production, which is projected to exceed 160 million tons by 2025.

Challenges notwithstanding, solid waste could also be an engine for green growth. Recycling, employment and innovative products could create new value chains while addressing social and environmental issues. Recent trends in managing solid waste in developing economies include the following.

Recognizing the role and value of informal waste pickers

According to the International Labour Organization, 15-20 million people work as informal waste pickers worldwide, but only 4 million are employed in the sector. Pursuing a transition to a greener economy and implementing a sustainable waste management system will require workers, operators and businesses to follow safety, health and environmental guidelines, and be part of a recognized waste management economic system. By working directly with waste pickers, (recycling) companies can achieve higher recycling rates and have a guaranteed supply of raw materials. Waste pickers could enjoy higher, more stable income, access to safety measures and health insurance. In Argentina, the incorporation of micro-enterprises and informal waste recycling cooperatives into the municipal solid waste management system has created livelihoods for urban poor.

Promote Public-Private Partnerships in municipal solid waste management

Municipalities are generally responsible for solid waste services, but the private sector has long been involved through outsourcing. Sustainable waste management legislation and policies and the right approach can create successful Public-Private Partnerships. Recent trends in waste PPPs include involving the private sector in treatment and disposal projects to introduce technical innovation into landfill management, recycling, and waste-to-energy projects.

Promote Green Entrepreneurship in the waste sector

Successful green development in Africa requires entrepreneurs because economic transformation and green growth depend on implementing new ideas, creating new business models, and promoting innovation. To increase innovative waste recycling and reuse, governments and development partners must focus on supporting small enterprise development that addresses the increasingly negative impact of waste. As one example, the International Labour Organization successfully implemented a joint program to promote green youth entrepreneurship in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. 

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Maria Leonor Sales is a consultant with the African Development Bank’s Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) Coordination Unit. She is responsible to provide support in the overall management of the CIFs, including portfolio management, monitoring progress in implementing projects and programs. She is from Portugal, and has a background in Development Economics.


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