Waste is wealth, at least for a handful of youth who know how to transform garbage into decent money-churning activities. At present Tanzania is growing fast; its cities (such as Dar es Salaam) are recognized by the United Nations and Africa’s biggest lender—the World Bank—as the fastest-growing cities in the region. This means more economic activities expansion, more waste generated hence, the potential for waste recycling business.
That is why Arena Recycling—an environmental-related startup, based in Dar es Salaam (a waste generation hotbed)—is rewriting waste management in Tanzania.
The start-up is one of the few initiatives that work along the waste recycling line. Their efforts—which are executed with utmost ingenuity, tend to offer the best environmental solutions that youth can offer, as the world, and Dar es Salaam being no exception, is faced with unprecedented environmental perils.
Waste landscape in Tanzania
The Division of Sustainable Development—a United Nations platform—estimates the quantity of municipal solid waste generated countrywide amounts to more than 10,000 tonnes per day. The indicative generation rate ranges from 0.1 – 1.0 kg/cap/day.
Further, the division argues that as much as 80-90 per cent of solid waste generated in urban areas is not collected and most of the domestic waste, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the total solid waste generated daily, is disposed of by burning or burying.
Over the past decades, waste management has gradually developed into a ‘thorn in the flesh’ for municipalities in Tanzania. As cities grow, so does the waste generation—giving a hard time to authorities to effectively organize and execute, storage, sorting, collection, transportation, treatment and final disposal of solid waste.
“The waste management problem is more pronounced in squatter settlements, where 70- 80 per cent of the urban population resides without the necessary infrastructure and social services. Consequently, over 70 per cent of diseases attended in health facilities in the country are water and sanitation-related,” Sustainable Development argued.
Zeroing down to Dar es Salaam where Arena Recycling operates, waste generation has jumped to over 4,600 tons which are also expected to triple to 12,000 tons in 2025, according to the National Environment Statistics Report, 2017 Tanzania mainland, published by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Over 70,000 tons of solid waste is produced in Dar es Salaam per year, but only 59 per cent of that amount ends up in dumpsites, and yet the environment report argues that composition of solid waste in Dar es Salaam to a great extent is food waste (kitchen waste which is 39 per cent of all waste produced), garden waste, grass and wood, plastic, metal and textile.
Henceforth, the government has incorporated the private and third-sector to assist in waste management, encouraged to develop business models that shrink waste lying in the streets, fuel employment opportunities and boost income generation to people.
In respect of that initiative, Arena Recycling comes to the fold with a creative recipe that offers advantages to end-users.
Arena’s recycling initiatives
Arena Recycling—a female-led environment start–up has ventured into waste recycling for making eco-bricks since 2018.
Driven by a sustainable mindset, the start–up is currently utilizing plastic waste, sorted according to its density and melted by using what Hellena Sailas, the start–up founder and a 2019 Global Young Water Fellow, described as “safe and eco-friendly process, [in] which we mix sand by using a special formula that we created, with a ratio of 2 to 1”.
The two-year-old startup is embarking on interesting paths, as it makes the eco-bricks with absolutely no cement, as their special formula uses recycled plastic materials to produce the bricks.
“Our bricks composition is simply 80 per cent plastic waste and 20 per cent sand, zero per cent water and cement” she added.
According to Hellena, the start–up has percolated its ingenuity into the engineering landscape.
Hellena stressed on the bricks’ development saying “since the eco-bricks are waterproof, it is recommended they be used for sewage construction. The user feedback is great, as the bricks were tested in labs for efficiency, durability, fire resistance, waterproof and fungus. Most of the engineers recommend these bricks for construction,”
In that context, Arena Recycling—with three collection centres—has managed to collect and recycle more than 5000 tons of plastic waste for making eco-bricks.
The start–up believes that as far as the environmental degradation agenda keeps marring the ecosystems of the planet—which are vital for living organism survival, it is important to employ all measures to downplay degradation, including recycling waste.
The start–up mission is fenced around reducing waste in communities, providing decent jobs for youth and women, but also sensitizing people on plastic waste management.
In addition, Arena has managed to work with other stakeholders in constructing pit latrines and water tanks in a primary school in Dar es Salaam.
The company also anticipates serving over 10 families, in the long run, to build their home with eco-bricks.
“This will include more than 5000 tonnes of plastic waste to be recyclable, and we expect to increase labour force up to 15 employees who will support the production process, and we will be able to generate 17,500 per year with 70 per cent margin profit” Hellena added.
As a youth-driven start–up, Arena Recycling anticipates serving more than 50 families in building their homes, assist communities with recycled building materials for constructing affordable water tanks and toilets, but also plans to increase more waste collection centres nationwide, and expand across the region.