|RUC2014 Blog 18: Why Waste Separation management is key in Rwanda and beyond|
|Thursday, 07 May 2015 20:56|
The University of Rwanda looks at how developing economic drivers for waste separation management at urban municipal level could improve public health, protect the environment and create useable benefits such as the production of fertilisers and biogas that could be used to the benefit of communities in African cities.
Municipal Solid Waste Management matters because it can have a huge impact
Municipal Solid Waste Management continues to be an increasing concern in rapidly growing cities in developing countries. For most developing countries and in poor communities in particular, open dumping still remains the main disposal route for waste. This poses a serious threat to both the environment and to public health.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) is becoming a major focus of interest for the treatment of Municipal Organic Solid Waste. What is anaerobic digestion? Simply put, it is a biological process that uses organic wastes such as livestock manure, slaughterhouse waste, food/kitchen waste, food-processing waste, garden refuse, agricultural residues etc. to produce two main products, namely, biogas and digestate.
AD’s first product, biogas, is principally composed of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and is incredibly useful in that it can be combusted to generate electricity and heat. It can also be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels.
AD’s second product, digestate, is the material remaining after the anaerobic digestion of a biodegradable feedstock, and it too has many applications that can benefit communities in African cities, directly or indirectly.
Digestate is rich in nutrients at optimum anaerobic biodegradation. The digestate is primarily used as a conditioner. It enhances moisture retention and can also protect against soil erosion.
Mixed waste at a household
Research looks at challenges that need to be overcome
Using Kigali City as a case study Dr Sylvie Mucyo, Lecturer in the College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine at University of Rwanda conducted research, which provides an overview of critical factors in the application of AD for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in sub-Saharan Africa with Kigali City as a case study.
Household Waste Collection
How does one incentivize citizens to create social value out of solid waste?
Based on her research findings, Dr. Mucyo notes that there are currently no official effective mechanisms for the recovery of biodegradable municipal solid waste in urban areas in Rwanda.
However, she mentions that the local population actively participates in waste separation activities thanks to the motivation provided by the opportunity to generate income by doing so.
This idea is shared by Mr. Christian Ntahonsigaye, a leader of a village in Masaka Sector, Kicukiro District, Kigali City. He asserts that there are people in the area who earn their living from separating biodegradable waste from metals.
“Collecting waste metal constitutes an economic activity since that waste is purchased from collectors by scrap-metal dealers. In our community we had people who were jobless but today they earn money by selling waste metals they’ve collected from the urban area,” explains Mr. Ntahonsigaye.
The reality of the success of community driven informal waste management motivated by financial gain suggest that financial incentives or economic drivers specifically developed for AD outputs could significantly improve the process of creating value and getting societal utilisation out of Municipal Solid Waste in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries.
Given that it goes back into the ground, it stands to reason that effective utilisation of digestate as fertiliser is significantly dependent on effective removal of contaminants such as heavy metals, inorganic contaminants and persistent organic contaminants potentially present in the organic waste.
Prevention is however better than cure and it has been shown that effective implementation of waste separation at source and as part of the collection process is a primary step in lowering risks of contaminated digestate. Citizens would need to be involved in this process and there is a need for better communication about the connection between waste separation and public health by scientists and government institutions so that stakeholders are aware of the risk and can benefit from knowledge shared.
Mrs. Olga Giramata a Resident of Gatsata village in Kigali City emphasizes this point by stating that there is a crucial gap in awareness of the importance of waste separation and its impact on human health. She explains that the majority of the population in the region knows waste separation is a very important activity to protect the environment, but laments that not enough effort is made to create awareness of just how important waste separation is to public health. Mrs. Giramata says, “We know from media that we must not mix metals and organic waste in order to protect the environment. But what about the risks involved for people? We haven’t been informed about the impact that safe waste separation can have on our health, and I think that is a very necessary point to be addressed”.
To this end, Dr. Mucyo and her University college have begun road shows and exhibitions to share their research findings with stakeholders so that they are able to put these waste-separating and health insights into practical use.
Waste transfer station (Belongs to a company that uses organic material for briquette making)
Dr Mucyo’s research conclusion suggests that economic drivers specifically developed for Anaerobic digestion outputs can significantly improve value creation out of knowledge of Municipal Solid Waste in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. Communicating the benefits of safe waste management practices to citizens of all social levels is integral to the safe, healthy and productive realization of that value.
[Call to action] For more information on how an integrated approach to this research combined household survey and interviews with waste managers and policy makers to investigate effective mechanisms for collecting separate biodegradable waste for AD.
The previous blog in this series can be found here
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