- In the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, the waste collection rate is less than 40 percent and the "new" type of trash, plastic, has turned into a problem for the environment and livestock. A new recycling centre however turns waste into profits.
Waste did not use to be a public problem when it was organic. The Burkinabe traditionally have used organic waste to fertilize fields, as fodder, as fuel for cooking or even as construction materials. However, current quantities of plastic trash are diminishing soil fertility and preventing the already scarce water from seeping into the ground.
The amount of plastic waste has been increasing drastically over the last decade, and now accounts for 10 percent of the Burkinabe capital's total waste. Some 200,000 tons of annual wastes in Ouagadougou is plastic, and less than half of it has used to be collected by city authorities.
Residents still are not familiar with the hazards this inorganic material poses. Out in the fields and pastures, it only exacerbates health, environmental and agricultural problems. Livestock grazing around the city and the countryside inadvertently eat the plastic. Some 30 percent of animal deaths are caused by ingestion of plastic.
Lay Volunteers International Association (LVIA), an Italian non-governmental organisation, already had knowledge of these problems when working in the city of Thies in Senegal. Here, the Italian group successfully implemented an initiative to sensitise the population, recycle the plastic waste and create new revenues for a large number of locals.
In Thies, LVIA started up with a larger sensitisation programme to inform locals about the environmental risks of plastic waste in the fields and pastures. Further, locals were informed that these wastes in fact can become a new resource if recycled. In particular the women of the city started collecting the waste and sell it to the new recycling centre.
With special technologies developed in Vietnam, the recycling centre treats the collected plastic waste and transforms it into different types of new plastics of an improved quality. This plastic may again be used and sold as raw material, thus creating sufficient revenues for the centre to employ necessary personnel.
With these experiences from Thies in Senegal, LVIA turned to city authorities in Ouagadougou, where the plastic waste problems were even greater than in Thies. The group promised to turn this problem into a lucrative solution that is cleaning up the city and providing income for its residents.
So this year, Ouagadougou got its first recycling centre, built by LVIA in partnership with the Municipality of Ouagadougou and the National Urban Park of Bangr-Weoogo. Not only does it keep the city clean, the centre provides income for thousands of poor people who are reimbursed for collecting plastic waste.
Together, these institutions also have been conducting a complementary public awareness campaign. "We are working to change people's behaviour," explains Andrea Micconi of LVIA. "People need to understand the dangers of plastic and the need to recycle."
Waste collectors have been easy to recruit given the significant revenues offered by the centre. "People can earn up to US$ 15 a week, which isn't insignificant in a poor country like Burkina Faso," says Mr Micconi. More than half of Burkina Faso's population lives by less than US$ 7 a week.
The centre further is managed by a local women's association that numbers some 900 members. The recycling activities are projected to create revenues of up to US$ 70,000 a year, with half being used to pay salaries and the other half used for maintenance.
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