WasteAid and Malawi-based organisation, International Conservation and Clean-up Management, are undertaking a feasibility study on community waste management. ICCM’s Cat Oliver explains the urgent need for better waste management at a national level.

Low-income countries like Malawi face significant challenges in dealing with rising levels of waste, despite producing less waste than wealthier nations. Malawi is a small, landlocked East Africa country with a population of just over 18 million and is at increasing risk from the dangers of accumulated waste.

In 2019, the capital city Lilongwe, was producing approximately 250 metric tonnes of waste per day (Kamakanda, 2019). Alarmingly current waste collection services can handle only a small percentage of this (around 30%), so the city, like many other areas in Malawi, faces a growing problem of accumulated waste (Barre, 2014).

Uncollected waste in Malawi is usually dealt with in one of two ways: being dumped/fly-tipped or burnt. Many Malawians have large rubbish pits outside their homes and routinely burn built up waste. This includes plastics and other toxic materials, consequently releasing greenhouse gases and causing higher levels of respiratory illness.

Waste which is not burnt is dumped – in local areas, in rivers/water systems, on farming land or thrown out windows of moving cars. Waste builds up in water systems, attracts vermin and presents a huge health, safety, and environmental risk to Malawians. The poorly managed waste situation in Malawi contributes to several disease outbreaks and environmental consequences – cholera and flooding among those. City councils have introduced a number of by-laws and policies aimed at combating the growing waste management crisis. Due to a lack of resource, funding and waste disposal infrastructure, these regulations are rarely enforced, and waste continues to be dumped and is escalating beyond control.

Kachere youth cleanup
Glass bottle construction

ICCM are excited and proud to be working on this WasteAid project funded by Corra. The project is a six-month Feasibility Study on Community Waste Management in Malawi. The study will focus on finding the best ways to build the capability of waste managers/champions in local communities. We want to ensure their activities can be supported and reflect national strategies and policies. We aim to collect and collate information on waste management practices across Malawi. The report will identify groups, individuals, organisations, and private waste operators who are turning waste into commercial opportunity/income in both rural and urban areas. Its aim is to create a knowledge and information-sharing base within the waste sector resulting in creating more holistic waste management systems in the future.

ICCM and WasteAid are hopeful that the longer-term impact of the study will have a positive effect in Malawi, by identifying potential solutions to manage waste. We believe that by increasing the capacity and efficiency of local waste management operations it will reduce the growing issue of accumulated waste, whilst introducing economic benefits.

Hands together

Malawi is already a nation which recycles and reuses a large proportion of the waste it produces; however, it currently lacks the capacity and resource to address the levels of waste generated. By achieving our goals and implementing viable, sustainable action plans we will help address and alleviate an ever increasing environmental and health crisis.

To achieve our goals we need to gather, collate and share as much information as possible obtained from communities in Malawi, including government officials, NGOs, businesses, health care workers and those working with waste on an informal unregulated basis.

If you are in Malawi and would like to help please send us a message via the Contact page.

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