Poor waste management is a problem across the developing world, impacting the poor more than others through impacts on their health, their environment and their livelihoods:
- 5 billion people are without formal waste management collections (D-Waste, 2010)
- 40% of solid waste globally is deposited in unregulated dumpsites, with no containment, removal of landfill gas, flood protection or remediation (D-Waste, 2014)
- A further 40% of solid waste is subject to unregulated burning, often on strips of waste or compounds (UNEP, 2010)
In Brikama, the Gambia, the negative impact of this are clear to see: children playing in litter, litter choked drains resulting in flooding during the rainy season; and hanging acrid smoke from rubbish burning in illegal dumpsites in almost every area of open space. At the same time, people have left rural areas where employment opportunities are limited for the prospect of a better life in Gambia’s urban centres. For many, making a living as a waste picker is the only livelihood available to them.
Photo: Currently waste pickers operate in dangerous conditions for a marginal existence – among the poorest of the poor.
Historically in The Gambia, as with much of the world, municipalities have been considered the key actors in the collection of domestic and commercial waste. However, Brikama Area Council (BAC) have been struggling to manage collection of waste, compounded by a massive increase in population within the LGA (Local Government Area) – an increase over 300,000 since 2003. Brikama LGA’s population now accounts for approximately 37% of the entire national population.
This means that much waste, largely consisting of plastic, is simply not collected and left to communities themselves to dispose of – often by burning. The uncontrolled burning of plastic is associated with a number of extremely harmful pollutants, from carbon monoxide, which affects mental function, to dioxins and furans that cause cancer and affect immune and reproductive system and are persistent in the environment. It is also associated with contaminants and other volatile organic compounds that cause cancer and respiratory illness.
This project recognises the lack of capacity of the municipal government to collect and dispose of waste safely, the desperate need to reduce the impact of waste on people’s health and the environment, and the need for people to be able to make a decent living. We will work to create new jobs for the poor that both gives them a decent living and that maximises the recovery, reuse and recycling of waste.
Photo: waste pickers in Brikama and Bakoteh will be the beneficiaries of value added new repreocessor enterprises