Harare City Council chief environmental scientist Charles Mabika said waste management in the capital remains a big challenge.

Waste, the new gold for Epworth women

By Adelaide Moyo

THEY say plastic is cheap, but for Leticia Dondo plastic is the new gold.

After losing her husband, she thought that was the end of the world. But through the Dobha Uphile/Nhonga Urarame Community Waste Management Project, Dondo has been able to eke out a living.

“Picking up waste and selling to big companies has changed my life. When my husband passed away, I didn’t know what to do with my three children, but from the little I get, I can take my kids to school, get them food and clothes,” she said.

In a country where millions are out of employment due to a harsh economic environment, collecting waste for recycling has become one of the easiest ways to eke out a living for many in the southern African nation.

Dondo and other women, trained by the Zimbabwe Sunshine Group, started the waste recycling project in 2019 with 10 people and have over the years grown to about 500 people.

Zimbabwe Sunshine Group develops and implements projects that make significant contributions to the environment and to sustainable livelihoods.
Dondo said the waste management project has changed her life.

“We still don’t have machines to make granules so that the waste is sold at a higher value. We still sell the items as waste and even though the money is not much, it is better than just staying at home,” she said.

But despite being able to feed their families, some people still look down upon waste pickers.
To help women cope, the Dobha Uphile project also offers counselling to women to deal with the stigma associated with waste picking.
“If you are a waste picker, oftentimes you are mistaken for someone who is mentally ill. But we are just trying to feed our families in an honest way. It is not the same as going to beg for salt from your neighbours.

“We encourage women that even when their husbands die or they lose their income, it’s better to be a waste picker and start from zero deposit. You don’t have to ask for money to stock the waste.
“You pick them up and sell them to survive,” one of the counsellors at Dobha Uphile, Colina Ndaba, said.

The group was started by women and youth after noting that the community was overstretched financially.
“We create jobs for people in Epworth in a bid to reverse stereotypes.  People usually associate Epworth residents with criminality. At our site, located near Glenwood, we mainly do solid waste recycling where we take plastics like PET, HDP, LDPE, PP and scrap metal,” Sinanzeni Maphosa, who is part of the project, said.

Zimbabwe Sunshine Group which spearheaded the Dobha Uphile project says it understands the essence of the National Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan as it is the primary reference in all its work in waste management.

Once regarded as one of the cleanest cities on the continent hence the moniker, Sunshine City, Harare has over the years become an eyesore as the local authority battles to contain waste.

Harare City Council chief environmental scientist Charles Mabika said waste management in the capital remains a big challenge.
“We are struggling to manage the waste or the rate at which waste is being generated is so many times above the rate we are able to collect the waste. The best way to deal with this is collaboration. Everyone produces waste, but they are not able to manage it,” he said at a Green Expo held in the capital recently.

“The problem that we are currently facing is the influx of migrants. There is rural to urban or urban to urban migration. If you can look at the capital city itself, during the day we have got its own different population.
“You find out that most of the people from the nearby dormitory towns like Norton, Chitungwiza, Domboshava, and Ruwa, among others, will be in the city of Harare.

“You find out that they leave a lot of waste. What is needed is to have good collaboration with these people. They need to be informed on waste management.”
Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the Harare City Council waste management situation a state of disaster and immediately tasked the Environment Management Authority to embark on emergency solid waste management.

In an extraordinary Government Gazette published under Statutory Instrument 140 of 2023, the government expressed concern on the “deplorable state of cleanliness of Harare Metropolitan Province, characterised among other things by litter and waste dumps accumulating in business and residential areas, open burning of garbage and indiscriminate illegal dumping of solid waste and littering”.

The main policies and strategies that relate to waste management in Zimbabwe include the National Climate Policy, National Climate Change Response Strategy, National Environmental Policy and Strategies and Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan.
Under the country’s Low Emissions Development Strategy, the waste sector represents a small proportion of national emissions.

The business-as-usual emission trends in the waste sector are driven by economic development and population growth.
The integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy for Zimbabwe includes the option of recycling – which assists in removing any contaminants from waste so as to render such waste reusable or returned to the economic mainstream in the form of raw materials.
The Low Emissions Development Strategy says financial, economic and social motivation factors for recycling border on reduction in waste handling cost and revenue generation.

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