Understanding Waste Management in a MegaCity
Increasing urbanization in rapidly growing urban centers in developing countries has lead to the increase environmental pressure on natural resources, but at the same time it opens an opportunity window for the exploration of new approaches in order to help these countries direct their efforts towards sustainable development. In most megacities in
developing countries, the fate of postconsumer materials, organic waste and other residuals are not well known. This is a result of the lack of a system of data collection along the waste management chain. In many cases there is no systematic recording and assessment of the amount of waste collected and transported by the municipal or private enterprises. Additionally, some of the final disposal sites lack of a weighing bridge to register the amount of residues landfilled and little or no information is available about the streams of valuable materials recovered and recycled. The previous situation is compounded by the fact that large amounts of recyclables are recovered by an army of informal waste pickers, which is practically invisible to the waste management authorities, that scavenge for materials on the streets and at the final disposal sites. The article will explore the current waste management system situation in Addis Ababa. It will also describe the present state of the methodologies developed in order to determine the fate of the different material streams, to quantify and characterize the waste flows within the city, to portray the different waste management operations, to estimate the number of people working within the formal and informal waste management sectors, and to describe the socio-economic situation of the population involved in the collection, transport, street sweeping, resource recovery and disposal activities. Preliminary results will be presented, as well as the implications that the gained insights could have on sustainable waste management policy-making.