Namibia gets to grips with recycling
AS Namibia’s population grows, so does our rubbish, making the issues of waste management and recycling ever more important. Government has drafted the Pollution and Waste Management Bill, while the Environmental Management Act of 2007 regulates waste-disposal sites. Recycling is the processing of waste materials into new useful products to reduce pollution. Wolfgang Schenck of the Recycle Namibia Forum (RNF) says while Government generally supports recycling and Section 3.2 (I) of the Environmental Management Act states that ‘the reduction, re-use and recycling of waste must be promoted,’ Government sees recycling as the responsibility of local authorities.
Schenck says a number of initiatives have been taken to promote recycling in Namibia and many companies are joining the RNF, but individuals need to get more involved. He believes communities can play a significant role in recycling waste. One such initiative was recently launched by Rent-A-Drum, the Windhoek municipality and Enviro-Fill. Rent-A-Drum is distributing free clear plastic bags to households in four Windhoek suburbs – Klein Windhoek, Eros, Avis and Ludwigsdorf. Households are asked to place recyclable rubbish – paper, plastic, glass and tins – in the bags and put them next to the municipality’s green wheelie bins for collection in order to retrieve new recycling bags.
Rent-A-Drum collects these bags on the same days as the municipality’s regular waste collection. Depending on the feasibility of the project, it will be rolled out to the rest of Windhoek. Meanwhile, Rent-a-Drum is establishing the first Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Namibia where recyclable waste is sorted by type. This sorting has been a time-consuming and labour-intensive process in the past as the company had to sort each piece of waste manually. The establishment of the MRF means that Rent-A-Drum can now take large volumes of mixed recyclables to the site, where 50 people are employed for sorting. Another initiative towards better management of waste has been taken at Omaruru by Grow Namibia, a recycling project aimed motivating Namibians to not carelessly dispose of their waste. From discarded paper and glass, the project manufactures crafts such as gift cards, boxes, writing paper, wine glasses and much more. ‘This year, we wish to give you the opportunity to give not only artistically beautiful but also environmentally conscious gifts that motivate a cleaner and better Namibia,’ says Hannah Pretorius of Grow Namibia.
Schenck believes that the recycling message must first be taught to children to take back to their parents and families.
While a number of schools in Windhoek participate in the School Recycling Competition organised by the RNF, recycling initiatives across the country are hampered by a number of challenges such as making the transportation of recyclables back to the main collection centres cost effective. The Windhoek municipality welcomes recycling initiatives but it is against having recycling stations in public areas, fearing that they will become messy and that it will become the municipality’s job to keep them tidy and manage them. Schenck has accused the municipality of not fulfilling its responsibility of recycling and instead passing on the responsibility to the private sector.
At Oshakati, some women are earning an income by collecting discarded bottles at the dumpsite and selling them to recycling companies. At Walvis Bay, three companies have been contracted by the town council to do recycling at the town’s dumpsite. ‘These people have exclusive rights to recycle whatever is deposited at the landfill,’ says David Uushona, the town’s manager for solid waste and environmental management. Uushona said there about 300 people collecting waste which they sell to these companies. Environmental consultant Dr Sindila Mwiya of Risk Based Solutions says for proper waste management to be achieved in Namibia, laws and techniques have to be in place. He says in the developed world, waste management is a huge, organised and powerful industry