Part 1: Trash Troubles in Tanzania*

July 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Garbage in Tanzania is out of control. There’s not a lot of quality infrastructure in general – roads, government personnel, electricity, water, etc – but the lack of interest in waste management still shocks me after three months.

Littering is not taboo at all in Tanzania. People throw plastic, paper, food cartons, old clothes, metal, any kind of old, unwanted trash wherever they want. On the street, out the window, over the side of the boat, in the Serengeti where the animals roam, anywhere.

Residential trash management is pick a spot in your yard, make a big pile of all your garbage, including plastic, and set it on fire every once in a while. We’re not talking compost heap, we’re talking garbage pile. It’s not burned properly or evenly either, so the trash piles are in a constant state of charred, stinky, eyesore bummer.

Then there are the fields of garbage. In Moshi, for example, there was a field of garbage I walked through every day on the way from my home to the orphanage. A literal garbage field. Goats and chickens liked to hang out there and pick through the trash for food. It was huge and nobody seemed to mind it or feel any pressing need to do anything about it. Rather, it seemed to be the local place for waste disposal and people just kept adding to it. I swear it expanded by 20% just during the month I was there.

In Dar es Salaam, the trash is even worse. It’s a huge city and it’s littered with garbage and sewage everywhere. The street sewage drains are open and line both sides of the street and are filled with rotting waste. Dar has a major rat infestation problem. When I’m in Dar I see a rat almost every day on the street or in the apartment or at the restaurant or wherever. The streets are also in such a state of deep disrepair that there are massive potholes, chunks of street missing, dirt sections, mud, rocks, broken down vehicles, and dilapidated buildings to navigate. Walking around in Dar is like navigating a disheartening obstacle course of sad.

Dar es Salaam does have trash collection every few days, in Kariakoo at least, but all it is is an open dump truck with six guys riding on the top. They pick up some of the trash and throw it in the truck. The trash is sitting on the side of the street.

I would love to see some sort of organization pop up in Tanzania that paid people to bring trash to waste processing facilities as an incentive for people to start properly disposing of their garbage. Tanzania has enough hygiene and health problems without trudging through a garbage field twice a day adding to the “pile.”

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s addition of Parts 2 & 3 – Upcycling and Reducing!

*Alliteration is fun!
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