Environment & Poverty Times
Waste equates to unused resources. It calls for new infrastructure and a change in individual behaviour. In the drive to achieve resource efficiency, waste is uneconomical as well as raising healthcare and cultural issues. Above all, it is simply a waste!
Kigali transforming waste collection into pro-poor development
By Elise Christensen
Kigali has a gained reputation for being one of the cleanest cities in Africa. A wide range of innovative measures in garbage collection, waste treatment, sanitation, public trans- port and slum development have attracted attention nation-wide, from neighbouring countries and from international organi- zations such as UN-HABITAT which in 2008 honoured Kigali with the prestigious Habitat Scroll of Honour award, attributed for the city’s efforts to be a clean and safe place to live.
In some of the low income suburbs of Kigali – Nyakabanda, Kimisagara and Rwezamenyo – we find one of the associations that have contributed to Kigali becoming a cleaner and more environmentally friendly place. As part of Kigali’s restoration of its lost glory in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, the city council decided to form associations whose members were tasked with collecting waste and finding environmentally sound forms of disposal. The Association for the Conserva- tion of the Environment (ACEN) is one of this initiative’s success-stories. ACEN has made garbage collection into a livelihood option for more than 100 people, mostly women. The key to the success story is the transformation of garbage into an alternative
energy source for the poor, fuel briquettes – and consequently providing a solution to two fundamental challenges facing the poor urban dwellers: the need for better waste management; and the need for clean and cheap sources of energy.
ACEN is today reaching out to a total of 14,000 families with the garbage collection service. The waste is brought to a central facility where sorters collect high-cellulose components such as compost, paper card- board and wood scrap. These materials are then dried, shredded and compressed into briquettes, a cooking fuel which is signifi- cantly cleaner and more efficient than wood and charcoal which are currently the main fuel for cooking in Kigali. In Rwanda every year some 5.5 million cubic metres of wood are used for domestic cooking and heating, and more than 80% of current energy needs are met by wood. Facing the challenge of serious deforestation, the government of Rwanda aims to by 2020 reduce the volume of wood consumed by 50% through efficient use of biomass and alternative sources of fuel. By bringing 8 tons of briquettes to the market every day, ACEN makes an impor- tant contribution to reducing the use of fuel wood and charcoal for cooking.1 In addition, it reduces the time spent by women collect- ing fuel wood.
It is estimated that if the production of briquettes in Kigali was scaled up to 15,000 tonnes a year it would save 86,000 cubic metres of fuel wood annually. Moreover the use of solid waste would save the municipal- ity of Kigali $1.5 million in transport of waste and dump site costs annually, in addition to the indirect costs of leachate contamina- tion of ground and surface waters from the dumpsites. The savings could be used to strengthen local facilities and the city’s infrastructure.
The waste collection project also has im- mense benefits for public health. Using briquettes instead of charcoal for cooking has substantially improved the household cooking environment by decreasing smoke in homes, thus contributing to a drop in the number of respiratory illnesses. As stated by WHO close to 5% of death and diseases in Rwanda is caused by indoor air pollution, and it is women and children who suffer the most. Another health benefit is the improved sanitary conditions due to the reduction of human and animal waste in the water, effectively reducing the incidence of water- borne diseases.
According to UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative 12 million people in agriculture could be employed in biomass and biomass
You’ve heard of green fuel. Now get ready for yellow as scientists have found a way to turn banana waste into a sustainable fuel source that could be relevant to many countries across Africa.
The simple, low-tech idea was developed by researchers at Nottingham University. They used banana skins to create briquettes that can be burned for cooking, lighting and heating. It could alleviate the burden of gathering firewood, the dominant energy source in many parts of the continent. This would help reduce deforestation, which makes a significant contribution to global climate change.
In some African countries, like Rwanda, bananas are an important and versatile crop, used for food, wine and beer. But experts estimate that the edible fruit makes up just a small part of what the plant produces. According to scientists, for every one tonne of bananas, there are an estimated 10 tonnes of waste, made up of skins, leaves and stems.
It was on a visit to Rwanda that Joel Chaney, a PhD student from the University of Nottingham came up with the idea of developing a low-tech approach to turn this banana waste into an efficient fuel source.
The scientists believe that banana fuel might help reduce dependence on wood as an energy source across Africa. In some of the continent’s biggest banana-producing countries like Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi, more than 80% of current energy needs are met from burning wood. This has a very damaging impact on the environment leading to deforestation which contributes to climate change. Gathering wood for fuel is also a time consuming job, mainly done by women. “In some areas wood fuel is getting depleted and you are getting deforestation. Women sometimes have to walk over six hours a day to get firewood,” says Joel Chaney.
“This is a way to use waste from crops like bananas, to make them burn in a better way be- cause loose residue most often just burns too rapidly. Imagine just putting some straw onto your fire at home. It just goes up in flames; you can’t cook food over it, while the briquettes provide a way to cook food in a much better way.”
The Nottingham researchers say their low-tech approach is a small step towards meeting the millennium goals and helping people out of poverty. They would be happy to give the idea away for free and are encouraging people who want to use the idea to get in touch.
Source: extract from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8044092.stm
Photo: Steven Visser
Monastery from beer bottles
Thai monks from the Sisaket province have used over 1 million recycled glass bottle to build their Buddhist temple. Mindfulness is at the centre of the Buddhist discipline and the dedication and thoughtfulness required in building everything from the toilets to their crematorium from recycled bottles shows what creativity and elbow grease can accomplish.
The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple is about 400 miles northeast of Bangkok in the city of Khun Han close to the Cambodian border. Using Heineken bottles (green) and Chang Beer bottles
(brown) the monks were able to clean up the local pollution and create a useful structure that will be a visual reminder to the scope of pollution and the potential we can make with limber minds.
The water tower and tourist bathrooms are even made from beer bottle litter. The monks were able to have the local people bring them the building materials which beautifully reflect the Thai sun.
related industries globally. ACEN is indeed part of the global effort to create green jobs. At present the ACEN cooperative creates employment for more than 130 people, more than two-thirds of whom are women, many of them widows or HIV sufferers. Increasing demand for briquettes might also create more jobs in the future as long as the briquettes are competitive with other sources of energy.2 At present they cost less than a third of the price of charcoal.
ACEN is a clear example of how collecting city waste can have many spin-offs besides just reducing overall garbage. And due to citizens’ active participation, the initiative has received overwhelming support. Quot- ing President Paul Kagame, the residents now proudly say: “Poverty is no excuse to live in a dirty environment.”.
About the author: Elise Christensen works for United Nations Environment Programme.
1. To replace charcoal with briquettes requires an improved stove. ACEN is currently looking into how to subsidize improved stoves for poor households. 2. According to the feasibility study, if the pro- duction and sale of briquettes is raised to 15,000 tonnes a year it could create 450 jobs and support indirectly a further 1,550 jobs, making a valuable contribution to national employment.
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