30 July 2012

Rwanda: Waste Management Industry Waiting to Be Developed

Photo: SteveRwanda/Wikipedia
Kigali, Rwanda. Rwanda is considered as one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa with urban population growth last reported at 4.48 percent in 2010.

In Gakinjiro in Nyarugenge, close to ADEPER church, garbage from all around the city is assembled before being taken to the new landfill in Nduba-Gasabo. For people living and working in the area, it's a big nuisance, because the smell is nauseous.

"Everything is mixed up. Hazardous waste, recyclable and non-recyclable waste, organic waste and paper should be separated", says Samson Twiringire, chemicals and pollution officer at the environmental regulations and pollution control department of the Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA).

He points out that of course separating the waste is directly linked to recycling. "But all the metal waste is exported to Ugandan industries and very little in organic and plastic waste are processed by local entrepreneurs," Twiringire says.

Not only would recycling be beneficial to society and reduce the waste sent to the dump, it would also save a lot of money currently spent on transport and management of the dumps. The recent closure of the one in Nyanza, which had been in use since before the Genocide, was budgeted at Frw 38 million, while the new site Nduba sector, Gasabo district cost an estimated Frw 1.3 billion.

Recycling would not only reduce the volume of waste, it would also create business, as some companies are already showing. For instance, Coped (Company for Environment and Development) has invested in waste management, especially in recycling organic waste. It has established a system of collecting separated waste from some 2,000 clients who include hospitals, hotels, institutions and residences.

To help their customers separate the waste, they provide bags of different colors: green for organic waste, yellow for paper, black for non-recyclable, blue for recyclable and red for hazardous waste. However, at this moment Coped recycles only the organic waste.

According to Providence Karinganire, the company's administration officer, they use it to produce fuel briquettes that are used in cooking. "Our machines still have a limited capacity compared to the waste we get", Karinganire notes.

What makes the business even more interesting is that the garbage bags Coped uses are themselves made from recycled plastic. That is being done by Ecoplastic, a company located in Mageragere, Nyarugenge district, which has for two years invested in making plastic bags and other materials from plastic waste.

"At borders, the airport, hospitals, hotels and in many other places, we get plastic materials, mainly packaging plastic," says Wenceslas Habamungu, the Ecoplastic plant manager, adding that they employ 40 workers at the factory, without considering the manpower involved in the collecting. From these materials, the plant makes plastic bags as well as sheet plastic that can be used for tree nurseries, aprons, green houses, tents, etc.

"All the metal waste is exported to Ugandan industries and very little in organic and plastic waste are processed by local entrepreneurs."

The plant produces 50 tons of plastic bags in use by tree nurseries and 100 tons of other material per year. According to the manager, the plant doesn't have any problem to meet customers' demand with their two machines. "The problem is the mindset of our society, people don't appreciate local products," Habamungu says. "Or they come to us at the last minute, which makes it impossible for us because of our capacity."

Apart from these two big ones, there are a few other eco-friendly entrepreneurs that include cooperatives which make bags from vegetable waste. But REMA's Twiringire says it is still a drop in the ocean, and more businesses should get into the field of recycling. All the more so since they would also contribute to the environment and the country's development by paying taxes, employing local manpower and reducing amount of money the country would spend on imports.

To help them, the Kigali City Council provides technical assistance, like in capacity building. In partnership with the Institute of Research in Science and Technology (IRST), they have trained cleaning cooperatives in making fuel briquettes like Coped's, which don't create a lot of smoke and reduce the amount of wood made for cooking.

"It belongs to the private sector to develop this sector, not to us," says John Mugabo, responsible for waste management in Kigali. "But for those who do, technical support is guaranteed."

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