Lack of waste separation systems and limited capacity to expand landfills is hampering waste recycling efforts in Rwanda.
Despite the government establishing systems for collection and transportation of the increasing waste, which is mainly driven by rising urbanisation in Kigali and secondary cities, recycling companies said lack of waste sorting at source is hampering their work.
They said sorting waste at the dumpsite is expensive and impractical.
“Without waste sorting at the household level any other system has to involve machines and many companies see this as a hindrance,” said Paulin Buregeya, founder of COPED Ltd, the country’s largest waste management company, which has been considering recycling waste.
A Kigali City assessment showed an average of 300 tonnes of waste is dumped daily at its main landfill in Nduba Sector.
Only two per cent of the waste is recycled by a handful of small-scale operators who mainly deal in treating plastic waste and biodegradable municipal solid waste for briquette and manure production.
Diogene Mitali, managing director at AGRUNI Ltd, one of the three licensed recycling companies, told Rwanda Today its recycling activities were limited to certain materials, but its licence to collect and transport waste is what sustains the business.
The other two recycling firms are Ecoplastic, and Greencare Rwanda.
Mr Mitali said the firms also lack specialisation in recycling different types of waste. The low uptake of waste recycling was also blamed on the high capital investment it requires.
Data from the Rwanda Utilities regulatory Authority shows in 2016 it only licensed one new company for waste recycling despite the cleaning and waste collection sub-sectors getting as many as 38 new entrants in the same period.
There are more than 143 companies are involved in cleaning, and 23 others in solid waste collection and transport operating largely in Kigali City and three provinces namely Eastern Province, Northern Province and Western Province.
More recyling firms
A 2015 audit report on management of solid and liquid waste by the Auditor-General shows lack of more recyling firms poses a sanitation and environmental risk.
Patricie Mukangarambe, head of Kigali City Public Health and Environment Unit told Rwanda Today a proposal for a waste-to-energy project was not feasible.
She said Kigali was in the final stages of enacting guidelines for management of solid waste. The guidelines would make waste sorting at the source mandatory to make treatment easier and cheaper for recycling firms.
“The directive awaits approval by the City Council committee before being gazetted. It will determine modalities of waste separation at source, disposal and exploitation by those seeking to recycle” said Ms Mukangarambe.
A recycling facility for obsolete electronics was recently opened in the country.