CSO courts BCC on waste management policy

Source: CSO courts BCC on waste management policy – The Southern Eye

THE Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has approached Bulawayo City Council (BCC) seeking inclusion of its input into the city’s proposed waste management policy.

In its position paper submitted to council on Monday this week, MIHR noted that Bulawayo has more than 900 solid waste pickers operating in various locations that include the landfill site, central business district, industrial and residential areas.

“The waste pickers pick various solid waste materials and resell them for livelihood purposes. An MIHR 2021 survey showed that 75% of the waste pickers are females mainly widows, single mothers and older persons.

“The survey also showed that about 89% of the waste pickers solely depend on waste picking as their only source of livelihood.

“They collect various waste streams that include plastic, paper (especially cardboard) and scrap metal. There are some waste pickers who have diversified and are now involved in waste upcycling — a process of turning the waste into other usable materials of better value, which is anchored on the ‘reuse’ concept.”

MIHR said, on average, each picker collects about 450kg of waste a month, which is very important in promoting the city’s waste circular economy.

The waste pickers face a cocktail of challenges such as lack of co-ordination and informality due to lack of recognition in council policies, lack of operating space, and poor markets which lead to exploitation, abuse and victimisation by council officials.

MIHR said direct engagement with BCC for policy formulation would improve their operating environment.

“Waste pickers are now organised as six co-operatives are finalising their registration and have Interface and recognition by other government agencies,” the paper read.

MIHR said the proposed Solid Waste Management By-law (2023) section 13 on domestic refuse was an extract from the 1979 law and it was used to delegitimise and victimise waste pickers.

“We, therefore, recommend that the section be amended to incorporate waste pickers or there be clarity in the by-law on how the director gives permission to interfere with domestic refuse.

“On section 22 on industrial waste — we propose that the clause also demand waste management plans from industries and commercial companies such as wholesalers.

“On section 23(1) on event waste, may it also compel political events to submit waste management plans just like sporting, entertainment, cultural and religious events?”

MIHR said section 28(6) which deals with entry to waste disposal facilities, may bar waste pickers from accessing the landfill site.

“Section 32(1)(d) on waste reduction and recycling — may disenfranchise the waste pickers. Waste pickers are picking for livelihood, the “profit” component of the clause is vague and may be a disadvantage to waste pickers, needs to be clarified.”

They also proposed to be exempted from paying registration fees to council.

The group argued that this would be the city’s recognition of the critical role they played in the city’s solid waste management.

The MIHR said: “Section 44: the term “invalid” is derogatory and we propose that the by-law adopts a human rights term that does not discriminate.”

It added that both proposed solid Solid Waste Management By-law (2023) and Environmental Management By-law (2023) needed to incorporate waste pickers in order to legitimise their operations and promote a circular waste economy in Bulawayo.

“The two by-laws are silent on the issues of electronic waste, only one of them mentions it in passing. We propose that the by-laws incorporate e-waste in view of the new e-waste reality in the country and the world,” they argued in the paper.