Climate change

Tanzania’s Urban Resilience in Confronting Emissions and Spearheading Sustainable Plastic Waste Management

Dar es Salaam.At COP28 Multilevel Action Day on December 06, Tanzania showcased commitment to the net zero agenda. With over 40 ministers and environmental stakeholders present, the event emphasized the pivotal role of cities, responsible for 75 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

Discussions probed into innovative strategies spanning waste, transportation, water, buildings and the environment, underscoring the urgency to address emissions from urban landscapes. Tanzania’s active participation signaled a collective push towards sustainable solutions on the global stage.

Speaking about the meet-up, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Union and Environment), Dr Selemani Jafo, says they know the importance of the issue, which is why in the country’s nationally determined contribution (NDC), they have included it.

“The problem is huge, especially in urban areas, but thanks to our 2004 Environmental Act and the 2019 policy that were reviewed in 2021, although they are clear, we are still lagging behind,” said Dr Jafo in an exclusive interview after his return from COP28 in Dubai.

According to the minister, 2021 NCDs will be reviewed in some parts because the document was designed to be implemented for six years to 2027, and $19.2 billion (Sh48 trillion) is required to achieve that.

The document noted that to deal with waste, the country aims at “promoting environmentally sound waste management practices that support reuse, reduce, and recycle, and promoting waste to energy technologies.”

Waste and climate change

The University of Dar es Salaam Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Aquatic Pollution and Ecotoxicology, Dr Bahati Mayoma, says that when organic waste decomposes, carbon dioxide and methane gas are created”.

“As a result of the manufacturing and incineration of waste, greenhouse gases (GHG), mostly carbon dioxide, methane, and other pollutants, are released into the atmosphere,” he said.

The lecture refers to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study that indicated that instead of all being greenhouse gases, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide and is responsible for more than 25 percent of the global warming we are experiencing today.

Dr Selemani Jafo, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Union and Environment)

“Making it 80 times more harmful than CO2 for 20 years after it is released. Cutting methane emissions by 45 percent by 2030 could help us meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” according to the study.

Dr Mayoma further noted that waste is the third most common man-made source of methane, as bacteria break down organic matter in landfills or dumping sites.

Tanzania and waste management

With a population of at least 61 million people, the Ministry estimates that a total of 12.1 to 17.4 million metric tons of solid waste is generated every year, while plastic waste is generated at 0.84 to 1.21 million metric tons, and less than four percent is recycled.

The common disposal methods include dumping, burying, and burning.

Dr Bahati says the study they have done has indicated that plastics are the major waste as they account for up to 75 percent of waste specifically, plastic bottles and bags make up 40 percent of all litter.

“This is due to their life cycle as most of other organic waste can easily be treated” he said according to the study they have done in 2021 in eight lakes and ocean regions (Kigoma, Mwanza, Kagera, Dar es Salaam, Mbeya, Songwe, Coastal region and Mara).

The scholar adds that most identified brands related to bottles or food packaging and three manufacturers make up 60 percent of identifiable waste.

Natural Resources and Environment Conservation Officer from Dar es Salaam City Council, Enock Tumbo, said nearly 96 percent of the about 319,000 metric tons of plastic waste generated in Tanzania is mismanaged, threatening the country’s diverse wildlife.

“The ministry takes several initiatives, including imposing a ban on plastic waste in June 2021, a ban that has been enforced effectively by the National Environment Management Council (NEMC) and local governments,” said Mr Tumbo, who works closely with the NEMC.

Director of the non-governmental organization Human Dignity and Environment Care (Hudefo), Sarah Pima, said that knowing that waste is contributing to GHG and capacity building is important at all levels, from communities to leaders.

Sarah, who also participated in Multilevel Action Day in Dubai, noted that “from the experience we earn in other countries, especially in COP28, in order to achieve a “Waste to Zero Initiative,” we need to provide education at all levels, and the government needs to imitate Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)”.

According to her, EPR aims at creating awareness among the community and policymakers to come up with strategies that will give responsibility for cleaning the environment to everyone, especially plastic producers and other groups.

“The legal framework in the country does not have that power, which is why nowadays there is a lot of plastic product waste.” Despite the fact that our country does not have a law to hold producers accountable, we continue to educate the community on how to store and sort the waste because, although on a small scale, there are those who recycle it, especially in urban areas.”.

Sarah also noted that, although on a small scale, they teach some communities in Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Lindi regions about the alternative use of some waste, such as charcoal and ornaments, and they have established community groups in those areas.

The director also pointed out the harmfulness of waste landfills in many cities that are located near residents, saying that they cause fire outbreaks and environmental and air pollution.

Giving direction to that, Minister Jafo says the government is working on finding investors in the waste value chain.

“We encourage investors, especially in another form of carbon market, to invest in that area. So far, we have 33 companies and groups that want to invest in the waste value chain, most in energy, and the NEMC is reviewing them,” he said.

Commenting on the presence of plastic bags and bottles in the streets despite the ban since 2019, Jafo says NEMC is tirelessly working on that area, but the producers of plastic bags also use different methods.

“There are thousands of small machines for making plastic bags, and they produce them at night. Although we have ceased most of them, there are still many. I would like to call for them to obey the law without coercion,” he said.

On the issue of plastic bottles, Dr Jafo said most of them can be recycled, but the problem is with the colored ones. We have issued a three- to four-month notice to the producers to come up with a way that every producer can recycle their products.

“We don’t want operations to stop; that is why we have given them time and not stopped them suddenly… After that, we will know what to do,” he said.

Dr Jafo further noted that they are planning on reviewing the environmental policies so as to hold producers accountable, but they will announce that letter.

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