Way too much waste in Africa

If Africans don't look at the waste they are producing, the continent will be producing more than double it did in 2012 by 2025.

24 February 2019 | Environment

Windhoek • Yolanda Nel

Current trends indicate that Africa's waste generation is expected to reach more than 240 million tonnes per year by 2025 – almost double that of 2012.

These findings were published in the 2018 Africa Waste Management Outlook report by the United Nations Environment Programme and partners. Linda Godfrey, coordinating lead author on the report, said that population growth, urbanisation, economic development and global trade play vital roles as drivers of waste generation.

“The urban population in Africa has been rising steadily over time. It was estimated at 455 million in 2014 and around 472 million in 2015 and is increasing at a rate of 3.55% per year,” the report reads. It also states that although only 40% of Africa's population live in urban areas, it is urbanising faster than other regions.

On the economic development front, the majority of African countries aspire to achieve middle-income country status by 2025. Considering that in Africa, children under the age of 25 account for 60% of the population, rapid economic growth is inevitable. “The number of young Africans entering the workforce is estimated at between 10 and 12 million per annum which is much higher than the estimated 3.1 million jobs created.”

Daily waste

Figures show that in 2012, an estimated 125 million tonnes of waste a year was produced in Africa, of which 81 million tonnes was from sub-Saharan Africa. The average per capita waste generation in Africa in 2012 was 0.78 kg per day, with considerable spatial differences in the amount of waste generated. It ranged from as low as 0.09 kg per day in some countries to as high as 2.98 kg per day in others. In Namibia, the waste generated was estimated at less than 0.6 kg per day. It is projected that this figure will grow to 1kg of waste per day within the next six years.

The composition of Namibia's waste is mostly organic at 48% and includes food scraps, yard waste like leaves and grass, as well as process residues. Although making up almost half of the country's waste, it is relatively lower than the continent's average organic waste of 62.8%. The country's plastic waste contributes to 11% of its waste, almost 3% more than the average of Africa. While Namibians on average might be using more plastic than other African countries, Namibia Polymer Recyclers, situated in Okahandja, recycled 1 568 tons of plastic waste last year. This recycled material is used in various production facilities across Namibia, producing various plastic products.

Residents across the country support the initiative and the hope is to set up more recycling plants throughout the country. “We are investigating mobile recycling stations,” said Janine Briedenham of Plastic Packaging, on their Facebook page.

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