But does the process have to be such a mammoth task?
Could you pause a moment to imagine the kind of favour we would be doing recycling companies, whose work has of late evidently reduced the amount of litter in our surrounds, if we were all to make the resolution to start managing waste at household levels?
And we are not talking about burning it!
I realise this might sound like a hassle and many might not find the suggestion appealing, but believe me, it is way easier than it might initially appear and it is a move that will not only make the important job that the recycling industry is attempting to do easier, but would save many of us on the trips to the doctors as it would ensure a hygienic environment.
And with the rumoured typhoid and cholera cases on the rise, it is a plan most of us might need to immediately take on! As things currently stand, most of the recycling companies in Zimbabwe have to make journeys back and forth dumping sites where they have to dig through the disgusting dirt to separate the litter in search of recyclable material.
This is bound to make recycling, which helps alleviate the burden of litter on the environment while saving on resources, a difficult process, which it really doesn’t have to be.
At a waste management meeting hosted by Miracle Missions recently, a representative of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) voiced concern over allegations of some plastic bottle vendors cleaning their often filthy empty containers in the Mukuvisi River, Harare’s main source of drinking water, prior to selling them to recycling companies.
The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Harare City Council and Polywaste P/l among others to discuss their ongoing clean-up campaign in major cities in the country.
As much as such irresponsible action by the plastic vendors could never be condoned, such a scenario would be a thing of the past if there was a better waste management system in place.
A representative from Polywaste P/l, a company that recycles mainly post-consumer plastic waste, said the firm obtained the bulk of its material for recycling from the Pomona dumping site, a place one writer described as characterised by “a vile stench of festering maggots and rotting vegetable matter in the summer”.
Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Jessie Majome, who has a special interest in waste management issues, bemoaned Zimbabwe missing on the business opportunity to recycle glass and cans.
Many households, citing the non-existence of a regular refuse collection service in their respective suburbs, have resorted to making rubbish pits in their homes where they dump household waste.
In most cases, all kinds of litter, from plastics, glass, cans, papers and even those that easily rot, like food remains, are all dumped in the pits and occasionally burnt.
The burning of litter has in fact become a very popular waste management method in Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, the burning process does not only put to waste material that could be recycled or reused, but the smoke, especially from burning plastics, pollutes the air and puts human health at risk.
In most cases, the pits would be infested with the disease-carrying summer filth flies (green bomber), putting lives further at risk. “What are we expected to do when the council, in spite of extorting large amounts from us, do not collect litter?” said one visibly annoyed woman from Uplands in Harare who has taken to constantly burning litter.
But Sharon Hook, Miracle Missions spokesperson is convinced that if people would acquire the 50kg plastic bins and have separate ones for different types of litter i.e. one for plastic waste, another for glass and another for paper while all waste that is highly biodegradable is used to make composts, it would make the situation better.
The bins cost on average 15 cents each and can hold a considerably large amount of garbage. What would definitely make things much better however would be for the recycling companies and the responsible authorities to have sorted litter collection points at all shopping centres, which people can easily access.
As things stand, many would not know what to do with the stored up litter, even if it was sorted. But until that happens, everyone should start trying out better ways of managing waste, even at a household level.
If we can do that, we will all realise so many benefits.