By 2050, Kigali is expected to reach a population of 3.8 million. The city’s waste is collected at Nduba landfill. Although the rate of collection is high, only 2% of waste is recycled. The problem of the waste that is taken to the Nduba landfill and others around the country that cannot be recycled is one of the reasons why the project “Waste to Resources: Improving Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Hazardous Waste Management in Rwanda” was developed.
The Project which is led by the Rwandan Ministry of Environment is funded by the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development of the Government of Luxembourg and is implemented by the Global Green Growth Institute.
TOP AFRICANEWS had an exclusive interview with Ms. Michelle DeFreese, Senior officer with the Global Green Growth Institute-Rwanda for more details on the project.
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: The name of the project is “Waste Resources: Improving municipal solid waste and hazardous waste management in Rwanda.”
What are the components of the project?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: The project has three components. The first one is to introduce interventions in the Nduba landfill. The first component includes equipment, such as a Weighbridge to accurately weigh the waste entering Nduba and also a sorting and separation demonstration facility. This equipment will allow us to separate recyclables that are coming into Nduba landfill and encourage their valorisation.
The second component is on E-waste. It’s to support the government of Rwanda to track and collect electronic waste.
The last component is on public awareness and engagement and focuses on behavioural change communication. So, that component is one of the reasons we came to the school to do outreach.
The entire project focuses on plastic, organic, and E-waste and today is one of the last days of plastic free July. It’s a global campaign to reduce the use of plastic, and to address the concern and the challenge of plastic waste.
What are we doing today at this School (GS Gatenga)?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: Today, we are encouraging students to learn about the issue of plastic waste, and ways that they can address plastic waste, reduce the amount of plastic that they use, and also to encourage them to look at ways they can use innovation in science and technology to solve some of the urgent climate problems, and also environmental issues that are faced not only by city of Kigali, by cities all over the world.
So, we have our team here, that includes people from different countries, to speak with the students about how plastic waste is a global challenge, and how we can address that challenge in our communities.
You talked about the global challenge, plastic waste being a threat. Can you tell us how big this problem is? Within Rwanda, Africa or on the global scale?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: Yes, it’s a challenge globally. In some cities, it’s worse than others. The city of Kigali has very high rates of collection. So, you don’t see a lot of the plastic waste on the streets that you see in other cities, especially in Africa. At the same time, once the plastic reaches the landfill, it’s not used, so it’s not collected and recycled. And that means that we’re throwing away valuable materials that can be used to make other things, either new plastic bottles, other materials or other products from recycled plastic.
So, in Nduba Landfill, we have hundreds of tonnes of waste entering Nduba landfill every day and we don’t know exactly how much and that’s part of the project. Having a weighbridge will help. But we know that for every 100 tonnes of waste into this landfill, there’s a certain percentage of plastic, metal, valuable materials that can be recycled, and that can be sorted and collected in a way that can bring value back to the city of Kigali through the private sector.
So, for us, it’s green business, it’s green jobs. But it’s also an issue of environmental concern. You have the old landfill that reached capacity, and you have Nduba that is quickly filling up and plastic is a big part of that.
Even though most of the waste is organic, with plastic waste, you can really see how there’s a lot of value lost by losing all of that waste to sit in Nduba Landfill until it’s recovered. So, at the moment Nduba is used as a linear model of waste management and we want to introduce some circularity so that you can recycle certain valuable materials
Nduba Landfill has been a threat to nearby communities, do you think the project will solve the problems caused by the landfill? how do you think it will be addressed?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: Yes, that’s an important concern. That’s one of the things that we stressed about the importance of the project, because you have communities living very close to the landfill, and even encroaching on the boundaries at times. So, if we’re able to use the best practices and the best techniques and technologies, we can really reduce the amount of waste that’s sitting there.
So, if the project is successful, we’ll be able to not only create green jobs and value from the waste, but also reduce the environmental impact of the landfill, especially on surrounding communities. So that’s one of the key goals of the project, especially in the long term. If we’re able to introduce valorization practices, such as organic waste composting, it would reduce even the volumes of waste going into the landfill. So, there’s so many opportunities. Nduba has been a problem for a long time. But there are solutions that are being used in other GGGI countries and other cities that we can learn from, and we can make the best use of everything that we have to improve the situation of the landfill, especially for our surrounding communities.
Can you tell us about the duration of the project?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: Yes, it’s a three-year project. So, one year is already completed. And this year, we’re starting to get into more implementation, so the equipment is arriving. And the interventions in Nduba are starting. And we’re getting to the point in the project where we’re really starting to reach out to communities, to schools, to increase awareness about the challenges of waste management, and how it can be more sustainable. So, it’s an exciting time in the project. That’s why we’re here at the school to really start our outreach activities, but also pair that with the equipment and improvements. So that it’s all along the value chain, just reaching out to communities, but also some real interventions at the landfill.
We cannot talk about protection of the environment and forget young people. How do you see the involvement of the young people in Conservation of Nature or environment in general here in Rwanda? And what do you want young people to know, so that they can play a due role?
Ms. Michelle DeFreese: I think young people often feel that their impact is minimal, but we want to encourage them to have hope and to take action. But the climate related news is negative. And it’s often depressing even. But there are small actions that young people can take. And there are even bigger actions when they group together and start organisations like the environmental club like at this school GS Gatenga. Those are ways to amplify their impact. Also, the young people are the ones that are going to develop new techniques, technologies, and really enable us to find new ways and new solutions to the climate crisis. So, at the moment, there are a few ways that we can treat plastic waste. But I’m sure that young people will have new technologies at their disposal that they’ll be able to use to address some of these global challenges. And that’s really exciting.
Rwanda has really excelled in global leadership on a lot of these issues, especially on plastic waste. So, we want to impart that message to the young people that their country is leading and has a strong voice in the international community and they as well can be a part of that and contribute to that.
The Interview was conducted by Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU