Uformel men effektiv affaldssortering i Afrikas byer

Laurits Holdt

På trods af at de ikke har et formelt system for affaldssortering, bliver meget af affaldet sorteret og genbrugt. Det er en vigtigt indkomstkilde for mange af byernes indbyggere og det udgør et effektivt genbrugssystem, skriver forskeren Onyanta Adama-Ajonye fra Nordiska Afrikainstituttet i en kommende artikel.

– There is a common perception that African cities are dysfunctional. But African cities do function – only not in the way planners and development experts expect them to, says Dr Onyanta Adama-Ajonye of the Nordic Africa Institute, who has studied informal sector recycling in the Nigerian city Kaduna.

Everyday 8.2 tons of non-degradable waste – mainly metal, paper, plastic and glass – is produced in Kaduna, according to government figures. A large part of this is disposed of in open dumps or, illegally, in public spaces.

Onyanta Adama-Ajonye has spent years studying waste management in Nigerian cities. She has found that beneath a seeming chaos is a well-functioning, informal system for collecting and trading materials. Most producers of waste – households and companies – have established links with waste-pickers, individuals who make a living from collecting and selling materials.

– The informal sector recycling depicts a system with an appreciable level of connectivity and interdependence. Particular types of waste are picked from specific places by specific actors. Children dominate the lower end of the chain, says Onyanta Adama-Ajonye.

In densely populated, mainly poor, neighbourhoods household waste is taken care of by mai kwalabe (“bottle-dealers”). While old bottles used to be the only material collected, business has expanded to items such as second-hand shoes and aluminum cooking pots.

Factories and other companies are a huge source of waste. They call middlemen trading in waste to come and buy or collect the materials. There are different arrangements for each company. For example when middlemen go to buy scrap metal from Sunglass Bottles company, they also sell bottles to the plant. Once bought the waste is sorted into categories: tin, steel, caterpillar and glass.

At the official waste dump, where there is no formal sorting, waste-pickers flock to collect materials, which is then sold to middlemen. 

– While people become waste-pickers primarily to earn a living, informal sector recycling has broader implications for urban liveability and environmental sustainability. Informal sector recycling clearly is making valuable contributions by limiting the amount of waste going to final disposal, says Onyanta Adama-Ajonye.

A full-length article by Dr Onyanta Adama-Ajonye on informal sector recycling is featured in the coming Annual Report “The Rise of Africa – Miracle or Mirage?”, from the Nordic Africa Institute. In the Annual Report the scholars of the Nordic Africa Institute write about their research in an accessible and intriguing way. Last year’s report “Africa in Uncertain Times” was awarded for its high quality and engaging articles.