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Problems Of Waste Disposal In Developing Countries Environmental Sciences Essay

Info: 4653 words (19 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Environmental Sciences

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J. Staniskis (2005), said “the acceptance that waste is there, it will always be there cannot lead to waste management solution. We need to know the reasons of waste generation, the can we prevent it”. This goes to mean, municipal waste is evident and something needs to be done about it if we need to save lives and protect the environment for the present and the future generation. The aim of this chapter therefore is to introduce the what is municipal waste management, it principles and concept that can be applied in order to improve or optimize waste management strategies in developing countries as well as the case study of this report. Also it will introduce the specific problems affecting efficient management of waste in developing countries.

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Most human activities generate waste and the manner in which these waste are handled, stored, collected and disposed of that poses risks to both the environment and human health. In fact where the concentrations of human activities are intense like in the urban areas, the needs for an appropriate solid waste management is imminent in order to foster healthy living conditions for the population. As a matter of fact, this ideology has been embraced by many governments with many municipalities trying to provide some basic services. In less developing countries, about 2/3 of most of the wastes generated are uncollected (World Resources Institute, et al., 1996, Achankeng, 2004, USAID 2009).

Most of these uncollected wastes which are often mixed with animal and human excreta, are usually thrown in an indiscriminate manner in both the streets and drains which contribute to flooding, insect breeding, rodent vectors and the ultimate spread of diseases (Zerboc, 2003). Most municipal solid waste in Africa and other low-income countries when collected are dumped on land in a more or less uncontrolled way. As a result, this uncontrolled manner of dumping may cause serious adverse effects on both the environment in turn, affect human and animal health and as well as severe economic losses ( Zurbrügg 2002). Environmental degradation which come as a result of inadequate disposal of waste is expressed by, the contamination of surface and ground water via leachate, soil contamination through direct waste contact or leachate, air pollution by burning of wastes, spreading of diseases by different vector like birds, insects and rodent , or uncontrolled release of methane by anaerobic decomposition of waste. The decomposition of organic materials produces methane which is capable of causing fire and explosion and this can contribute to serious global warming. For example in a Mexican city of Tampico in the Gulf of Mexico coast, there was fire which burned for over six months in an open dump (Medina, 2003). In some municipalities not served with waste collection facilities, the unusual way for waste reduction is applied by dumped managers and that is through a deliberate setting of periodic firs at the dumps so as to reduce the volume of the waste. This therefore creates space for the dumping of more waste and thus extends the life of the dumps areas.

Africa itself produces thousands of tons of waste daily and in which case, most of the solid wastes ends up in open and wetlands which leads to ground water and surface contaminations (USAID, 2009). According to this report, solid waste generation rate for some cities in Africa estimated to be about 0.5 to 0.8 kilogram per person a day. As a matter of fact, comparing these figures with the 1-2 kg per person per day generated in developed countries according to USAID, the figure seems small comparatively but a difficult problem to manage in the context of most developing countries. This because, most cities in the developing countries are handicap or lack the resources to match the demand of services in terms of solid waste management and environmental sanitation (Medina 2002; Achankeng, 2004). In fact because of service insufficiency in cities of most developing countries, there has been an increase in the deterioration of most urban environment especially in the aspect of water and land pollution which is a source of risk to both human health and the environment.


As earlier mentioned previously, municipal solid waste management is becoming a serious problem in cities of many developing countries (MSWM). This is because, most cities do not collect the totality of the waste generated and of course of the entire waste possibly collected; only a few fractions is disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner. However the whole objective of solid waste management is an ideal concept, that is, solid waste management is aimed to reduce the quantity of solid waste that are disposed off on land by recovery of materials and energy from solid waste (Medina 2002; Zurbrugg 2003; Achankeng 2004).

This objective is very well acceptable and applicable all over the world and this is commonly backed by with principles (as will be seen below). Some of the principles of municipal solid waste management involve the application of the principle of sustainable development and principle of Integrated Solid Waste Management ISWM). Integrated solid waste management here refers to the application of suitable techniques, technologies and management programs that deals with waste of all types as well as waste from all sources so as to attain the ultimate goals of sustainable waste reduction and effective waste management which will help in better management of waste produced thereafter.

2.1.1 Sustainable waste reduction

Of recent, it has been realized that, in order to attain a successful sustainable waste management, industries and society have to produce more goods and services with a lesser use of the world’s resources (using less materials and energy) and less pollution and waste. In most countries today, despite increase in production of goods, product changes have been introduce and put into use, i.e. applying the techniques of internal recycling of materials and on-site energy recovering which act as a way of solid waste minimization schemes.

2.1.2 Effective Solid Waste Management

In an effective management perspective, the systems of solid waste management are needed to ensure an absolute human health safety. In fact, the whole system of effective solid waste management must ensure absolute protection of waste management workers and safety of the entire public health through diseases prevention as well as it must be sustainable in both environmentally and economically manners. By this notion, it means effective solid waste management must have the capacity to reduce in a sustainable way the environmental impacts of waste management and the cost of operation must be acceptable by the entire community. Entirely, an effective waste management system should encompass some options like: waste collection and transportation, resource recovering through separation, resource recovering through waste processing etc.


The issue of waste management has in recent years attracted global concern especially in relation to the environment (Staniskis, 2005). This has led to the creation of many organizations both from local, national to international with the aim to seek for means to develop a more resounding ways of handling, storing and disposing of solid waste in a sustainable and friendly manner (W. Kates et al. 2005). According to W.Kates et al. (2005) it is of recent that the of the need of sound waste management was integrated in the concept of sustainable development created by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) initiated by United Nations General Assembly in 1982, and named the “Brundtland Commission” in 1987. Following the aim of this commission, it realized that despite the effects of human activities on the environment, humanity still has the possibility to make their developments sustainable in a way that, it should “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs” (WCED 1997). This actually, opens as a new way of rethinking as this doctrine was embraced by almost all countries in the world. Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the doctrine was endorsed and expanded as Agenda 21 which laid out the plan to tackle and overcome economic and ecological problems. Many countries embracing this doctrine have created and adopted supplementary laws to under-score the recommendations of Agenda 21 and Cameroon s not left out. To this effect, many developing countries like Cameroon his was followed by the development of a strategic framework for sustainable development that is, Cameroon created a national environmental management plan which was inculcated into chapter 1 in Article 13 in the law on the environment of 1996, as well as in Chapter 1V Article 45-53 which addresses all issues related to sustainable waste management in the country.

According to UNESA (2002), sustainable development has foster and reshape ideologies environment, economy and society. However, today more emphasis on sustainability is focused on the aspect of sustainable development and environment protection, but in which case the broadness of this concept goes deeper than just environmental protection.

In developing countries and Africa in particular, water scarcity, resource degradation, falling in the standard of living, species extinction, and tribal conflict which arises because of scrambling for resources are major problems related to environmental degradation.

In what sense, if this situation is not handled in a responsible manner in a long while, it might cause serious environmental degradation on environment that can lead to total havoc on human life on earth (UNESA, 2002)


Municipal solid waste has become a serious issue to be worried of within developing countries. This is because most municipalities in the developing countries are handicap in financial and technologically in handling municipal waste management problems. The development of the concept of IWM came to experience as a means to address certain common issues with municipal waste especially in Low-income countries (LIC). Long time ago, the management of solid waste was practiced through collection, land disposal and incineration of household waste. Today, the situation has improved due to increasing awareness of the dangers of environmental degradation caused by human activities (Cole and Sinclair 2002). Apparently, studies have proven that, landfill and incineration solution to solid waste management are not enough to habdle the volumes of solid waste generated both communities and industries (J. Staniskis, 2005). It is imperative to comprehend that, in developed countries; the most suitable and widely applicable approach for a sustainable environmental waste management is the “Integrated Waste Management” (Cole and Sinclair 2002). In this context, an integrated approach to waste management consist of “hierarchy and coordinated set of action” which according to Medina (2002), aim in reducing pollution, maximize recovery of reusable and recyclable materials so as to protect both the environment and human health.

IWM systems follow general hierarchy of waste management,

Fig, 2.1 Hierarchy of integrated waste management

Source: African Development Bank (2002)

In this way, it tries to conceive specific issues and needs of community and to develop some appropriate and integrated sets of solution in each context. Several solid waste management studies having bring forth the possibilities of certain approach capable to adapt in many developing countries situation. An overview of some possible solution via the concept of integrated waste management can illuminate the illustration above.

2.3.1 Waste Prevention/Source reduction

Large and wide, it has been recognized and proven that waste minimization is by far the most feasible tool for resource efficiency and sustainable development. The fact that we acknowledge that waste is exist and will continue to be there, cannot solve the problem or better still leads to waste prevention. As is often said, it is better to prevent a disease than to cure it. Also, it is after the cause of a disease is known that it can be cured. In this like, according to J. Staniskis (2005), to better prevent waste, it is imperative to first of all know the source of it generation. It is only after identifying the it source of generation that certain prevention measures listed below can be applied.

Application of more efficient production technologies to reduce waste

Internal recycling of production waste

Substitution of hazardous substances

Reuse of products or part of products for the same purposes

This method requires that, before household disposed off their waste, efficient waste management decision and policies must have been implemented. Through the application of waste prevention, a great deal of waste reduction can be achieved through the introduction of ideas like changing products which help to increase the advantages of pollution reduction and resources efficientcy (J. Staniskis, 2005; Zebroc, 2003)

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2.3.2 Reuse

Reuse in the context of waste hierarchy refers to recovery of products and use them again. This entail the reduction in the consumption of scarce raw materials thereby saving both water and energy, prevent waste generation as well as reducing pollution. This is quite evidence in most cities in the Less develop countries. For example in Cameroon, both soft drinks like Coka cola, sprite and Pamplemousse as well as mineral water (Tangui and Super Mont) are sole in plastic bottles. After consuming these brands, the consumers keep the plastic bottles for another purpose, e.g. re-sell the bottles to the retailers, also, refill the plastic bottles with drinkable water and later store in the refrigerator. As a matter of fact, this act as a source of income to some household who go around searching and picking these bottles in order to re-sell them to the shops or retailers.

2.3.3. Recycle

Recycling of materials is an important aspect of reducing the amount of waste to be disposed off. This system of waste management is being well practiced in developed countries but to a lesser extend in developing countries due to their waste composition, making recycling ineffective in most developing countries. The notion of waste separation at source (household) is a common practice worldwide especially in low-income countries- waste separation is done with a lot of attention by waste pickers and scavengers who recover valuable items from this operation and sell to itinerant buyers e.g. plastic bottles, metals, old shoes, old clothes, papers (Snow, 2003)

According to Zerboc (2003), a well organize and waste practice backed by local municipality can enhance safety of on workers health as well improving the income for waste pickers and collectors. Furthermore, waste recycling can be an important economic option for some cities in the developing countries which produces waste similar to cities in developed countries, but in cases where the local municipalities are unable to provide recycling facilities due to financial problems, partnership with other private recycling companies can be another better option (Sudhir et al. 1997)

2.3.4. Composting of waste

Taking into consideration the composition of waste in most cities in developing countries, waste composting seems to be a more preferable option to management their waste (African Development Bank, 2002). According to Cointreau (1982), Achankeng (2004) Gordon (2005), most waste in developing countries can be reduced through composting. This is because; most of the wastes generated have higher composition of organic materials. Following their research, about 78-85% of compostable materials were realized in waste generated in some low-income countries like SriLanka. Achankeng (2004) in his research found out that, compostable materials in waste produced in the city of Bamenda in Cameroon stood at about 85%.

According to African Development Bank (200), Gordon (2005), the practice of composting can offer the following advantages

It helps in the reduction of the amount of waste

It has the possibility of reducing landfill gas emission and also because, since it is process is natural, the help reduces environmental degradation

Offer the advantage of recovering fertilizer and natural manure that can be used agricultural purposes.

2.3.5 Incineration

According to Zurbrugg (2003) and J. Staniskis (2005), incineration is another important option of managing waste. It is a process where waste is being burnt under a controlled and monitored condition. Despite the fact that incineration has the capability of reducing waste to about 90%, this option is still difficult to fit in the context of developing countries due to the cost of constructing a solid waste incineration plant (Medina 2002). Ti construction, maintenance is very costly and cannot be handled by developing countries. Another serious problem of incineration in developing countries is the fact that, most waste consist of high amount of compostable materials and contain high moisture quantity which makes the functioning of incinerators inefficient.

2.3.6. Landfills

This method is commonly practice in most developing countries. Sanitary land fill is designed to for final waste disposal. As a matter of fact, it is recognized as a better option of waste management than open dumping commonly practice in cities in developing countries. According to African Development Bank (2002), what makes sanitary landfill some how complex is the way it should be planned, what kind of administration should be associated to it and the amount of experts to be involve

Sanitary Landfill has some advantages like

reducing the risk of both environmental and human health associated to all kinds of wastes

Reduce the absorption of methane underground

Production of energy i.e. electricity through the burning of methane captured from landfill gas.

The allocation of landfill requires the municipal government identify a convenient location so that it should be far away from human residences. Through the creation of sanitary landfill, it can generate job opportunities for citizens, also reduces pollution and conservation of natural resources.


2.4.1 Urban Population growth

The first serious problem related to solid waste management in developing countries s that of urban population growth. Most developing countries and Africa in particular, is witnessing fast urban growth because many people a commuting from the suburbs to the cities for better livelihood. This has led to a tremendous increase in the concentration of population in towns and cities (Nath 2003). According to facts from World Bank (2006), the world population has witnessed a tremendous rise since the beginning of 1990 with developing countries recording the fastest growth. The result of this rapid population growth has led to increase in waste generation in urban centers. According to African Development Banks (2002), the rapid population expansion has led to increase in the amount of waste generated in most urban centers in African thus, leading to excess waste over limited infrastructures.

Also, rapid urban growth has led to the creation of informal pattern of settlements in cities of developing countries. This has resulted in the creation of slums, with housing and living conditions which are horrible. The pressure of ever-growing population on urban infrastructure in many cities overburdens the provision of urban services. Urban municipal governments are under intense pressure to meet the demand for basic services such as water, sanitation and solid waste management (Medina 2002). Most of the slums grow in an unplanned manner, and the local municipalities are ill prepared to provide basic facilities (like garbage collection) to the ever growing population. This causes garbage to be dumped in open spaces, leading to disastrous effect on the social, economic and environmental health of the area (Kuniyal et al. 1998, Medina 2002, Zerboc 2003); consequently this has resulted in financial and institutional constraints to manage the resulting solid wastes (Chakrabarti and Sarkhel 2003). Even those enjoying decent housing dump garbage in the open space, due to

2.4.2 Lack of finances and infrastructures

In a developing country framework, though solid waste management accounts for 20 to 50 per cent of the municipal budget (Schübeler 1996, Bartone 2000), the service is provided to only about 50 per cent of the urban population; actual collection only accounts for around 60 to 70 per cent of the refuse (Gerlagh et al 1999, Khawas 2003). For instance, Latin American countries were generating approximately 275,000 tones of solid waste per day in urban areas, necessitating a fleet of 30,000 trucks and 350,000 m3 of land a day to properly collect and dispose the waste (Chakrabarti and Sarkhel 2003). The insufficiency of services results in the deterioration of the urban environment in the form of water, air, and land pollution; which not only poses risks to human health but to the environment as well (Medina 2002). Another impact of the increasing population is the creation of a vicious cycle of pollution. Rise in population is not met by equal increase in infrastructural facilities, which leads to increase in the filth and garbage. As filth gets accumulated, less and less number of inhabitants are willing to pay for the retrieval services leading to loss of revenue to the municipality and further deterioration of the quality of services rendered (Zerboc 2003). The impact of deteriorating services are directly felt, as there is visible increase in waste being dumped right besides the human habitats, which causes tremendous risk to both environment and human health. The present situation is expected to deteriorate even more due to rapid unchecked urbanization and growth in human population (Zurbrugg 2003).

2.4.3. Environmental problems

The impacts of solid waste on environment is immense, from release of harmful green house gases (GHGs) to contamination of ground water, improper solid waste can wreck havoc on the environmental health. The most serious environmental problem in terms of solid wastes is the emission of GHGs. According to Thorneloe et al (2002), the waste management sector represents 4% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions and landfills contribute the largest anthropogenic source of methane, contributing 90% to the total GHGs release from the waste sector in the United States. Methane is a primary constituent of landfill gas (LFG) and a potent greenhouse gas when released to the atmosphere. LFG is created as a natural byproduct of decomposing organic matter, such as food and paper disposed of in these landfills and it consists of about 35-50 % methane (CH4) and 35-50 % carbon dioxide (CO2), and a 26 trace amount of non-methane organic compounds. Each day millions of tons of municipal solid waste are disposed of in sanitary landfills and dump sites around the world. According to Methane to Markets Partnership, website (2004); “globally, landfills are the third largest anthropogenic (human influenced) emission source, accounting for about 13 percent of global methane emissions or over 223 million metric tons of carbon equivalent” (MMTCE). The status of solid waste management system thus considerably influences the problems associated with climate change and global warming.

2.4.4 Health problems

Serious public health problems arise due to uncollected solid waste and waste often leading to many infectious diseases including water borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Such incidence of diseases puts additional burden on the scanty health services available in resource poor developing countries. Insect and rodent vectors are attracted to the waste and one may recall that as many as 200,000 people had to flee after the outbreak of pneumonic plague in Surat in Western India (1994). The outbreak is attributed to the uncontrolled fermentation of wastes which created favorable conditions for the breeding and growth of rodents and insects that acted as vectors of diseases (Venkateshwaran 1994). A similar study by WHO (1995) observed in 1994 that 616960 cases of cholera resulting in 4389 deaths were reported in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania (UNCEA 1996) which can be linked to the fact that in Northern Africa as much as 20 to 80 per cent of urban solid wastes are dumped in open spaces (Chakrabarti and Sarkhel 2003). Contamination of ground water by disease causing organisms from water seeping through dumps is likely to include the viruses of hepatitis, poliomyelitis and gastroenteritis (Medina 2002); thus such water contamination may have long run health effects apart from dysentery and cholera. The U.S. Public Health Service identified 22 human diseases that are linked to improper solid waste management (Hanks, 1967 in Hoornweg et al., 1993). The most immediate health threat due to solid waste in developing countries is to the waste workers, rag pickers and scavengers. Waste workers and rag pickers in developing countries are seldom protected from direct contact and injury. The co-disposal of hazardous and medical wastes with municipal wastes poses serious health threat. Exhaust fumes from waste collection vehicles, dust stemming from disposal practices, and open burning of waste also contribute to overall health problems (Hoornweg et al 1993).

The magnitude of the health problems due to solid waste in case of developing countries are particularly alarming where the proper collection and disposal of solid waste is impeded by paucity of funds and technological capacity. The areas, which are not serviced, are left with clogged sewers and litters which create serious health problems for the resident population (Khawas 2003). Crowding and unsanitary conditions are important amplifiers of the transmission of infectious diseases. Many infectious diseases thrive where there is a lack of water, and inadequate drainage, sanitation and solid waste removal (Mcmichael 2002).

Conclusively, it can be realized that, the issue of waste management in developing countries and Africa in particular posses a lot of challenges which are burning issues to deal with. However, there are some advantages like creating jobs for jobless nationals which is an important advantage for developing countries as a result of good waste management. In more precise way, the whole literature scenario depicts that, much needs to be done by policy makers and municipalities in order to effectively management their waste. Policies enacted should be implemented with the involvement of both private stakeholders and the entire community. Waste management planning should be done in such a manner that, all stakeholders should have a say on the issue of waste as well as training programs can be made an important part of waste management planning. This is because; it will enable the entire community to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of waste management in the milieu.


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