22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Waste Recycling Project - Step in Right Direction

Dressed in a crisp Lacoste golf shirt, Tovonga Timire wades across muddy pools of water that have accumulated at the corner of Harare Street and Kwameh Krumah Avenue, after an afternoon of heavy showers in Harare's CBD.

Clutching a can of his favourite carbonated drink in his left hand he proceeds to hop from one stepping stone to the next.

Others that have crossed the same spot before him have placed some bricks to use as stepping stones to help navigate the muddy waters.

Finally getting onto the kerb, he realises that his drink is finished and casually tosses his can to the ground and walks on. Little does he realise that this seemingly innocent action is by far the largest cause of blocked drains in greater Harare.

Blocked drains have resulted in flooding in streets after heavy downpours. It is litter such as the beverage can that Timire leisurely tossed away that finds its way into Harare's drainage systems.

Where does the problem lie? Who bears the ultimate responsibility for the current state of affairs and are the big consumer products companies doing enough to arrest the littering threatening to choke the environment?

Littering has become a major problem in Zimbabwe's cities. Social commentators have placed the blame on consumers, who they say have embraced a culture of littering and carelessness over the environment.

Others blame local authorities whose mandate is to ensure there is an efficient refuse management system in urban areas.

Garbage is accumulating on the streets eventually clogging the drainage system, leading to street flooding. However, some suggest that big name brands have a central role to play in the management of litter.

Most of the garbage littering the streets is packaging used by the big name brands in the beverage and food sectors.

Most of the litter in the street today is from Polyethylene Terephthalate (Pet) bottles which are the receptacles in which consumers enjoy carbonated and non-carbonated drinks as well as bottled water.

This is why big companies that make these products have come up with a project to recycle pet bottles.

Plans are afoot for a Pet recycling project to be set up this year which aims to reduce waste levels in the country. The joint venture company, called Petrecozim, which was formed last year at an investment of over US$1 million offers environmental solutions to the problem.

The project's chief operating officer Tawanda Masuka said the plant would tap pet that is currently accumulating in the streets, public places, illegal dumpsites and in most residential areas for recycling to alleviate the growing garbage problem.

Petrecozim was formed last year by a consortium of local companies predominantly in the pet value chain aiming to recycle pet litter into flakes which will be exported to China where they are proccesd into synthetic fabrics.

"By recycling waste Pet, the project will create a much needed return mechanism for the waste and will significantly reduce the volumes of waste Pet which is quite visible in the environment," he said.

According to the Zimbabwe State of the Environment report 2010 in 2007, Zimbabwe generated about 1,57 million tonnes of waste. It also reveals that plastics of all types constitute 5 to 10% of all solid waste produced.

"The recycling of Pet will extend the lifespan of landfills and reduce disposal costs as well as reducing pressure on raw materials and carbon foot print. One tonne of pet is equivalent to 6,5 cubic meters of landfill space, " Masuka said.

According to Masuka, the plant will consume a significant quantity of pet litter operating at a 500kg capacity per hour, thereby offering strategic and sustainable solutions in dealing with garbage.

The CBD, fast food outlets, shopping centres, schools, households and bus terminus, have been identified as havens for most litter.

Environmental Management Agency (Ema)'s Environmental education and publicity manager Speady Kangata has applauded the Petrecozim initiative and encouraged its quick implementation.

Kangata urged all companies to take responsibility by tackling waste management as a core value.

"Fortunately, there are other companies and organisations' that are involved in the recycling of other waste materials like paper, scrap metal, high density polyethylene low density polyethylene- flexible, but pet, cans, polystyrene and plastics are nuisance, and if more and more polystyrene is generated it will remain hanging in the ecosystem since it is not biodegradable."

Ema said it was its responsibility to deal with municipalities so that they collect refuse to avoid solid waste blocking drainage systems and waterways.

"When dealing with the municipalities we don't lobby but we make them to take refuse to designated areas," said Kangata.

Delta Beverages,which is one of the 10 companies that have set up Petrecozim, told businesdigest that apart from the Pet recycling project, they have other partnerships in beverage can collection programmes in Harare, Victoria Falls, Beitbridge and Bulawayo.

"Since the beginning of 2013 we have engaged the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe as a long term strategy to cover all urban centres in Zimbabwe. Delta has supplied can collection cages and the partners collect and facilitate the export of the crushed cans. To date, about 300 tons of cans have been exported," George Mutendadzamera, Delta's director of corporate affairs said.

He said used glass bottles are collected and sent to ZimGlass who use them as a raw material in the manufacturing of new glass bottles.

"A further 100 tonnes of non - returnable bottles have been exported to NamPak in South Africa for recycling," he said.

Delta has also led the establishment of a Community Waste Management and Recycling Center in Victoria Falls in partnership with Environment Africa, Ema and the Victoria Falls Municipality.

This successful project is directly benefitting the community.

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