Wmr sofa 354030_editorial_n_ovember11_vers04

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Wmr sofa 354030_editorial_n_ovember11_vers04

  1. 1. Los Angeles, London, New Delhiand Singaporehttp://www.sagepub.com © The Author(s), 2009. Reprints and permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav ISSN 0734–242X Waste Management & Research 2009: 00: 1–2 DOI: 10.1177/0734242X09354030EditorialCairo: A colossal case of waste mismanagement after 5 years of operation whereas others still glistened withto learn from their original coat of paint, having never been used! In 1984, Cairo and Giza cre- Meantime, Cairo kept growing. In 2000, the population ated new regulatory authori- had reached 12 million. They were generating 10 000 tons of ties (the Cairo and Giza municipal waste per day and the zabbaleen were still collect- Cleansing and Beautifica- ing between 30 and 40% of it and recycling 80% of what they tion Authorities – CCBA collected. Local Egyptian companies were contracted to collect and GCBA) to organize and the waste in the neighbourhoods not serviced by the zabbaleen upgrade the city’s waste sec- and transport it to the poorly managed municipal dumpsites. tor. They licensed the tradi- These became constant sources of billowing dark smoke tional collectors (the zabba- hanging over the city of Cairo and after 2000 the burning of leen) by delineating their rice straw outside Cairo added a suffocating atmosphere for collection routes, charging at least 2 months of the year. them a fee for the privilege (!) of collecting waste from A system to supplant all systems households (!), allowing them Thus, in 2003 the governorates of Cairo and Giza opted for to charge residents a fixed the privatization of their waste services to multinationals. Cairo fee for monthly collection, was going to unburden its waste management woes on to the and forcing them to split that European companies – professionals with long track records of fee with the traditional waahi. keeping cities spotlessly clean. The terms of the contracts The 1 Egyptian pound the included collection from large rubbish skips located in waste zabbaleen had left after pay- collection sites on the streets – an end to door-to-door collec- ing the government and the tion. They included transport to transfer stations, then on tomiddlemen (waahi) each the same amount hardly covered composting plants (only 20% of the waste was required to bethe cost of operating, maintaining or upgrading their vehi- recycled) while the major waste fraction was to be landfilled incles, with little or nothing remaining to cover the costs of sanitary engineered landfills.labour, health and safety, or any other incidental expenses The people who had designed the system had not factoredassociated with providing the service. Their lack of education in some of the socio-economic aspects of the city.and information, their traditional lack of accounting forunpaid family labour led them to miscalculate revenues and • Cairo is home to an estimated 40% people who hadprofits. Thus the cleanliness of cities had become intertwined incomes below the poverty line in 2004/2005 according towithin a whole set of poverty contexts: a lack of the capability the African Economic Outlook 2007/2008.to even discuss, negotiate and participate. • These inhabitants constitute an eternal potential pool of scavengers; and that popular markets provide the urbanA new system to replace the informal sector poor with lucrative sources of income from the recyclablesTo respond to the continuing need to expand coverage to the they scavenge from waste pooling sites.whole of Cairo and not depend on a system which dealt with • The residents of Cairo do not enjoy the same standards ofthe organic fraction by feeding it to pigs, policies in the late education enjoyed by the average resident of cities in the1990s leaned heavily toward the establishment of composting North.plants. They were expected to absorb a substantial amount of • The residents had previously enjoyed a higher level ofthe city’s waste and substitute for the unseemly methods of service which was now being reduced and that they werethe traditional collectors, namely pig breeding. Ten years of being asked to pay more for lower levels of service.that policy led to a trail of poorly managed, poorly operated, • Those who had enjoyed the higher level of service pre-poorly maintained plant and facilities which ground to a halt, ferred to keep it and were willing and able to pay for it asor years later were at a standstill. Many had become obsolete well as for the service they were not getting. 1
  2. 2. Editorial• The multinationals would not be able to attract the labour consumption rises. Waste generation rates of organics they required even to provide the reduced service levels as recorded during that month are substantially higher than in the stigma atached to the occupation of rubbish collector other months. This coincided with the strike of the multina- acted as a barrier to unemployed youths joining their col- tional companies due to the complexities and ambiguities lection crews. caused by the government agencies that monitored the con- tract and Cairo found itself in a hellishly unsanitary situationThe system led to the following actions. it had not experienced in living memory. To sum up, cities in the Southern Hemisphere can extract• The rubbish skips placed on streets were stolen at an some valuable lessons from the story of Cairo. alarming rate.• They were taken at night and moved about the city on don- • Traditional waste management systems are embedded in key carts – the same carts which the zabbaleen had been realities which are too complex for official, conventional sys- forbidden from driving into the city in 1990! tems to understand. They are socially constructed and• A parallel system to the official multinational one sprang thus also difficult for traditional city planners and manag- up among high-income residents of the city. They held on ers to accommodate. They spring from an organic rela- to their door-to-door collection by the traditional collec- tionship between the people who run them and their city. tor. They paid him an amount which they felt was fair but They are market based and derive from knowledge and were obliged to pay for the service they were NOT receiv- information about popular markets and trading systems. ing by the new system for waste collection service, paid via They provide the poorest and most destitute segments of their electricity bill. society with incomes, livelihoods, trades, occupations• The recycling rates achieved by the multinational compa- and economic growth opportunities which no other sec- nies met the 20% contractual quota but no more; repre- tor provides. senting a reduction from the 80% which the zabbaleen had • Traditional systems should be supported not fought. At proved was possible. present, and because they are not recognized, they end up• Government agencies in municipalities were, and still are, adopting unsanitary, unsafe and backward methods. increasing their capacities to implement rigorous moni- • Traditional systems achieve the highest recycling all-round toring of waste contracts. They often fined the multina- rates recorded for cities and generate employment for sig- tional companies for violations which were not always nificantly larger numbers of people than the official sys- contractual shortcomings and the fines often exceeded the tems. In the face of all this and in spite of it, they relent- amounts due to the companies. This situation led many lessly still seek the materials which the city discards and contractors to halt the service, go into arbitration, strikes look forward to turn the day’s pickings into the day’s earn- and eventual breach of contracts. ings so that they can care for their families whom the state, the official system, has neglected in education, social serv-And then the pigs were culled! ices and for whom there are few prospects for improve-In 2009 when the outbreak of the H1N1 flu in Mexico ment in life. In short, no place in society.became known by the misnomer ‘swine flu’ the Egyptian gov-ernment decided to take precautionary measures to protect The lesson learned in Cairo may show waste managers of cit-the city from the possible outbreak of an epidemic. In a hasty ies how they need to carefully consider replacing functioningmove, they embarked on culling the entire pig population in traditional systems with seemingly modern and efficient sys-Egypt!! As most pig-keeping was located in the neighborhoods tems. It would rather be wise, as in Cairo, to help the zabba-of the zabbaleen, the massacre commenced there and later leen to retain their rightful place in a more efficient system toextended to the rest of the country. What happened next serve the city, and at the same time helping the economy ofwas reported worldwide and Egypt’s action was criticized by the poor and the environment through clean cities and highthe World Health Organization. The relationship between rates of recycling.pigs and the H1N1 flu was firmly denied by all authoritative,international, neutral agencies. The official waste managers of Laila Iskandarthe city had made a decision which had left the city without its CID Consulting, Cairomain organic waste recycling machine: the pigs! E-mail: laila@cid.com.eg It did not take long for the city to swim in a sea of organicwaste which the traditional collectors now had no incentive Jens Chr. Tjellto collect. To make matters worse, the pig culling ended Associate editor WM&Rimmediately before the holy month of Ramadan when food E-mail: jct@env.dtu.dk;2

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