THE Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture has called for more concerted efforts in making waste management a business opportunity to alleviate unemployment and boost economic growth.
The ministry’s Director of Environment, Stanley Damane, made the remarks during a workshop on clean waste management at Lancers Inn on Tuesday.
The workshop, which was held with the financial support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, was attended by government officials, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and academia as well as small and medium enterprises.
It sought to identify ways by which municipal waste could be managed in an environmentally sound and economically beneficial manner.
According to Mr Damane, Lesotho needed to join the global trend of harnessing the value found in waste by employing innovative ways of reusing, recycling and developing new products from waste.
“Waste can be a serious problem if not managed properly, but it also presents ample economic opportunities when approached positively,” Mr Damane said.
He said stakeholders in waste management fell into two distinct groups: “Those who perceive waste as an environmental nuisance that is only worthy of disposal in a landfill, and those who perceive it as a business opportunity that is worth understanding, regulating and investing in.
“However, the trend in recent years is skewed towards resource recovery and increased benefit from waste management. This trend, therefore, raises a question of whether we should still be talking about waste management or resource management.”
Mr Damane called on the stakeholders to adopt a “renewed understanding and approach” to waste management. He further noted that developing countries were experiencing rapid growth in the generation of various kinds of waste including waste electrical and electronic equipment or electronic waste (e-waste), waste agricultural biomass and waste plastics.
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“The survey conducted in 2006 on e-waste predicts that by 2017 Lesotho will discard over 103 tonnes per year while the repair shops already handle more than 18 tonnes of e-waste per year,” he said.
“According to studies conducted in Maseru in 2006, on average, each person generates 0.3kilograms (kg) of waste per day. If each person in Maseru generates 0.3kg per day, it can be calculated that 300 000 people living in Maseru can generate 90 000kg per day or 32 850 000kg per annum, which is equivalent to 32 900 tonnes per annum.”
Mr Damane said Lesotho does not have the capacity to handle the waste, which consists of plastic, paper, e-waste, glass and other items.
“An appropriate waste management system is an imperative for all waste types found in Lesotho, and such a system must surely benefit the economy in many ways,” he said.
The global waste to energy market, Mr Damane said, is set to grow to over $28.6 billion (about M310 billion) by 2016, hence the need to mainstream environmental concerns in the sectoral plans and economic development activities.
“There is clearly a need to consider a public-private approach in our endevour to better manage waste in Lesotho that is driven at community level and using low energy/low technology resources,” he said.
“A holistic waste management approach will promote effective and efficient management of waste including application of the seven Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Research, Refuse and Recover). This is an essential element for promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production.”
During the workshop, the Lesotho Times also spoke to Mampho Setloboko who manufactures bags and hats using plastic materials. Ms Setloboko, who has been working with plastic and other “waste” products for the past 25 years, said she was struggling to sell her products due to space constraints and lack of marketing opportunities.
“I used to showcase my products at flea markets but it was not viable, so I now keep them at home and only sell to people who already know about my work when they call to make their orders,” she said.
Ms Setloboko expressed hope the workshop would equip them with skills to market her products more effectively, adding that since her business was cost effective she only need guidance by experts to become profitable.