This is according to the Waste Management Outlook (WMO) for Africa, published by the UN Environment, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on World Environment Day earlier this week.
They say only 4% of waste generated in Africa is being recycled, and Africa has therefore become a dumping ground for waste, particularly hazardous waste, often from developed countries.
This is a far cry from the AU’s vision that African cities will be recycling at least 50% of the waste they generate by 2023, the CSIR said.
Professor Linda Godfrey, principal scientist at the CSIR was the co-ordinating lead author of the publication, and highlighted the need for Africa to start addressing current poor waste management.
“There is an urgent need for African countries to address the current waste management challenges and to prepare themselves for the expected growth in waste generation in the coming century. This will require social and technological innovation, and investment in services and infrastructure in the waste and secondary resources sector never before seen in Africa,” she said.
The report states that waste generation in Africa, like in other developing regions in the world, is driven by population growth, rapid urbanisation, a growing middle class, changing consumption habits and production patterns, and global waste trade and trafficking.
The Africa WMO promotes the transition from waste management to resource management, which fits with the thinking of an integrated waste management system, taking into consideration the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits.
The proposed goal is that African countries divert at least 50% of the waste they generate towards waste reuse.
The report found that while a number of international, continental, and regional policies are in place to address pollution and waste in Africa, it remains unclear how these policies have been translated into action.
Head of UN Environment Programme, Cecilia Njenga, said the uncontrolled dumping of waste is one of the major challenges facing Africa.
“The report sets a vision for Africa and we hope that this document will inform and inspire decision-makers around the continent to preserve the environment,” Njenga said.
Some of the The Africa Waste Management Outlook recommendations include: extending city cleansing services; extending affordable and appropriate waste collection and removal services to all residents; eliminating uncontrolled dumping; and open burning of waste and eliminating illegal trafficking of hazardous waste.
They propose all citizens have access to adequate waste collection services and environmentally sound management of all waste by 2030.
The Africa Waste Management Outlook is available as a free download at https://www.csir.co.za/documents/africa-wmo-reportpdf