Faizal Mote – Environment Engineer, InSite collaborator
I lived in Hulene B neighbourhood, where, as I grew up, I saw the Hulene dump also grow. I don’t know how old the dump is, but I’m already in my 30s. A dumpsite where waste is deposited indiscriminately, including hazardous waste. “Could it be that only this place exists for rubbish disposal?” This is the question I have been asking since my childhood and which remains to this day unanswered.
Waste Management in Mozambique is a problem that affects the entire national territory. Until today, there is a high production of waste and a lack of adequate places for final disposal.
Currently, there is only one sanitary landfill site in the country for the disposal of hazardous waste (Mavoco Landfill), and urban solid waste is deposited in open air dumpsites, which constitutes a danger to public health and the environment.
In this article, I invite you to reflect on the state of waste management in Mozambique and the main challenges that the country still faces.
Waste is understood to be any matter, substance, object or good resulting from a process or operation which has been discarded, but which may or may not still have some alternative use (either through reuse, or recycling).
Waste can be classified according to: (i) its form – solid (solid waste), liquid (effluents) and gaseous (gases and vapours); (ii) its characteristics – inert, hazardous and harmless; (iii) its origin – urban, industrial, hospital, agricultural, among others.
Waste management consists of a set of methodologies aimed at reducing waste and directing it to an appropriate final destination, so as to reduce its impact on the environment. Waste management includes all activities necessary to control waste from its origin to its final destination, namely waste prevention, sorting, conditioning, collection, transportation, transfer, treatment, recovery and final disposal.
Adequate waste management must be based on the following hierarchy: prevention, reduction, reuse, recovery and disposal. Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic, which addresses the Right to Environment, determines that every citizen has the right to live in a balanced environment and the duty to defend it.
Despite the existing legislation and strategies for Waste Management in the country, a system of Waste Management that puts at risk public health and the environment still prevails
Based on this article, the Environment Law was created as well as other legal instruments that complement it, among them, Decree No. 94/2014 and Decree No. 83/2014, which divide Waste Management into Hazardous and Non-Hazardous.
In Mozambique, the responsibility for Waste Management lies with the Ministry of Land and Environment. In particular, the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (GRSU) is up to the municipal councils and district governments in the areas under their jurisdiction, while the Management of Hazardous Waste is up to the producing entities under the guidance of the Ministry of Land and Environment through specific regulations.
Despite the existing legislation and strategies for Waste Management in the country, the use of a Waste Management system that jeopardises public health and the environment still prevails. An example of this is the existence of open air dumps commonly used for the final disposal of waste, such as the Hulene dump, where in 2018 17 people died by burial due to its collapse, which had already reached a height of a three-storey building.
In Mozambique, there is only one site for the final disposal of Hazardous Waste, the Mavoco landfill in Maputo, which operates with limitations due to insufficient financial and material means for the treatment of certain hazardous waste, which ends up being deposited without any treatment.
Environmental education needs to be introduced into the academic curriculum
In fact, the Country faces several constraints regarding the implementation of an adequate waste management policy, starting right away with the production of waste, which naturally accompanies population growth and changes in habits and customs.
Unfortunately, there is little focus on reduction at the source of waste production, which lacks knowledge of environmental conservation practices and has little awareness of this issue.
Another problem is the separation and disposal at an adequate final destination. There are not enough suitable containers for the conditioning of solid waste and waste collection covered only about 40% to 50% of the national population, according to 2012 data from MICOA (latest data available).
Waste sorting is practically inexistent and what exists is assured by less formal means, namely by some associations and by the “catadores” who collect some types of waste for recycling, as is the case of plastic, aluminium, iron, glass, cardboard, etc.
The means of transport are also insufficient, both in number and in conditions, with some being stopped due to breakdowns. In addition to the challenges in GRSU and in the management of hazardous waste, we also have the management of agricultural waste, which in my opinion is a gap in national legislation, given the notorious growth and importance of this sector for the economy and development of the Country.
In order to implement a waste management policy that protects public health and the environment, we must, in addition to other actions, make the entire population aware of the importance of waste management. In particular, it would be important to introduce environmental education in the academic curriculum, since young people are always an important vector for changing behaviour in society.
It is necessary to strengthen in society, and particularly among young people, the basic concepts of waste management: (i) reduce production; (ii) reuse whenever possible; (iii) recycle; and, finally, (iv) deposit in the appropriate places for treatment.
In short, the country already has a well-developed legal framework in the area of waste management. It is now urgent that we develop more adequate infrastructures for the implementation of the legislation and invest in the environmental education of the population.
Furthermore, in summary, in terms of waste management, the Country still needs to face and solve the following challenges:
- The dissemination of the already existing provisions for those involved in the Waste Management process and greater inspection with a pedagogical nature;
- The creation of a regulation on the Management of Agricultural Waste;
- The creation of a regulation to introduce environmental education in the academic curriculum.
In Non-Hazardous Waste Management
- The reduction of waste production at source;
- Implementation of sorting systems, with selective collection by waste stream (plastic/packaging, paper/cardboard, glass and organic waste);
- Closure of open air dumps and urban rehabilitation of these sites;
- Resizing the network of containers, the waste collection fleet and rehabilitation of the existing vehicles;
- Optimisation and extension of Urban Solid Waste collection routes;
- Environmental education programmes to make the population aware of the importance of environmental conservation.
In the Management of Hazardous Waste
- Increase the number of sanitary landfills for hazardous waste;
- Equipping sanitary landfills to be able to carry out the necessary treatment of the hazardous waste produced.