Rwandans take on solid waste recycling

KIGALI’s garbage recycling market is steadily growing. Industry experts say this trend could partly explain why the city of over one million people remains one of the cleanest in the region. Wenceslas Habamungu has been involved in the business for the last five years.
Waste management not only contributes to the environmental safety but also creates employment and reduces the amount of money the country would spend on importing such products.  The N....
Waste management not only contributes to the environmental safety but also creates employment and reduces the amount of money the country would spend on importing such products. The N....

KIGALI’s garbage recycling market is steadily growing. Industry experts say this trend could partly explain why the city of over one million people remains one of the cleanest in the region. Wenceslas Habamungu has been involved in the business for the last five years.

He says the garbage recycling market seems to be on its way to expansion as the city keeps expanding outward, swallowing up the suburbs.

Habamungu is one of the few people who heeded the concern of the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) over the harm plastic products cause to the soil.

After taking study tours on garbage recycling abroad, he thought about a business which would recycle plastic bags into useful items to serve his community.

That’s how he started Ecoplastic, a plant dealing with recycling plastic bags, in 2008.

This plant, located in Mageragere, Nyarugenge district, recycles plastic bags which wrap imported products for hotels, hospitals, customs and local industries, among others. Habamungu’s recycling plant is just one of the few companies in the waste recycling industry.

“At first, I used to go around the city trying to collect bags, but today, workers from different companies who kept my contacts call me so that I can take the products,” said Habamungu.

A part from institutions, cleaning companies also have understood that there is no use to take the plastic waste to dumpsite alongside other waste while there is someone who can provide them with more reward of their collection effort.

One kilo of plastic bags costs Rwf150 when they require more washing, while clean/new plastic stuffs are sold for up to Rwf 400 per kilo.

The plant employs 17 full time workers plus 35 part time workers in the processing.

Every year, the plant produces an average of 50 tonnes of plastic bags used in tree nurseries and 100 tonnes of other material, including green house tents for horticulture, ordinal sheeting and roofing tents, etc.

Their regular consumers include hospitals who take aprons or other items for laboratories, maternity and waste collection.

After selling the output, Habamungu makes a net profit of around Rwf2m per month.

He says the plant doesn’t have any problem to meet customers’ demand with their two machines.

“The problem is the mindset of our society, people don’t appreciate local products,” he said.

While Ecoplastic deals with plastic materials, Coped (Company for Environment and Development), a cleaning company which has also invested in recycling organic waste,  has established a system of collecting separated waste from clients who include hospitals, hotels, institutions and residences.

To help their customers separate the waste among the 30 tonnes they collect per day, they provide bags of different colours, made from Ecoplastic recycled products: green for organic waste, yellow for paper, black for non-recyclable, blue for recyclable and red for hazardous waste.

Sorting out the waste helps them to get organic waste to recycle and other waste like metals, bottles, etc which they sell to Ugandan recyclers.

COPED recycles one tonne per day of only the organic waste used in the production of fuel briquettes which help in cooking.

“Our machines still have a limited capacity compared to the waste we get,” said Paulin Buregeya the company’s CEO, adding that their major clients are schools, bakeries and prisons.

Low capacity

A part from the metal wastes exported to Uganda for recycling, there are a few other eco-friendly entrepreneurs that include cooperatives, which make bags from vegetable waste. But authorities in Rema say it is still a drop in the ocean, and more businesses should get into the field of recycling.

They say entrepreneurs should consider the fact  that recycling not only safeguards the environment and enhancesthe country’s development through taxes, but also creates employment and reduces amount of money the country would spend on importing such products.

“It’s up to the private sector to develop this sector, not to us [City of Kigali], but for those who do, technical support is guaranteed,” says John Mugabo, in charge of waste management Kigali City.

Mugabo said that the assessment Kigali City did last year showed that 186 tonnes of solid garbage was collected every day and only two per cent get recycled.

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