Garbage collection and disposal has come to a halt in several parts of Kigali after contracted firms ran into financial difficulties due to nonpayment of fees.
It is estimated that while households daily waste generation accumulated within the past three months of implementation of the stay-at-home measures, the ability of garbage collection companies to pick them up for disposal at the municipal dumpsite was severely affected with many failing to meet costs of maintaining trucks on the road.
Rwanda Today learnt that many garbage companies are counting losses after accumulating bad debt as customers have not fulfilled their obligations.
As a result, garbage collection is now limited to a few customers to allow the companies to cover operational costs.
Now, the number of trucks on the road that collect waste has been reduced to 60 from the original 100. The waste is dumped at Nduba dumping site.
“The reality now is that many homes are grappling with waste that is slowly growing up into a serious environmental and health crisis,” a staffer at a one Kigali-based garbage contractor told Rwanda Today on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the press.
Kigali Households pay a monthly waste fee of between Rwf1, 000 and Rwf5, 000 to firms contracted to collect and dispose municipal waste at the landfill in the outskirt Nduba Sector.
Paulin Buregeya who runs Coped Ltd, one of the largest garbage collection and transportation firms in Kigali said the revenues plummeted as several residential and business customers stopped paying after the lockdown hit incomes.
This, he said, exacerbated the financial situation for many companies that had about a half of residential customers especially in City’s middle and low-income estates not making payments.
“Many of us have had issues repairing our trucks since garages and shops for spare parts were closed during the lockdown. Now they are open but there is no money to resume. I think that is the reason a few running trucks are prioritizing only clients who pay,” he said.
Agruni Ltd, another waste contractor with majority of residential customers in Nyarugenge and Kicukiro districts indicates that its revenues dropped by more than 40 per cent, and would require a financial bail out to keep service going.
“Unless the government comes in to help, our contracts have a one year duration and it is extremely difficult to secure a bank loan to keep service going.
And unlike other businesses our vehicles are purely designed for waste transportation and would serve no other use when we are out of business,” said Diogene Mitari, the company manager.
With contract terms compelling the garbage firms to observe strict collection schedules, more pressure is mounting on them to enforce the recently issued guidelines on handling and disposal of used facemasks after the country made wearing the protective equipment mandatory to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Estimated four million masks have been sold, and manufacturing firms indicate that they have another 2.5 million in stock awaiting distribution in different parts of the country. This is in addition to another unknown volume believed to be manufactured and sold informally on a daily basis.
The environment regulator is understood to have ordered waste collection firms to start sorting used masks from wastes they collect at households’ level, and keep them pending further decision on proper disposal.
However, those who spoke to this newspaper indicated that this was difficult in practice as used masks are found mixed with other waste at source and there are no incentives towards time and costs associated with sorting.
Rwanda Environment Management authority (REMA) director general Juliet Kabera, said it was still early to make an informed evaluation of the level of implementation of the new guidelines pending “formulation of a nationwide plan to efficiently collect used masks in a more systematic way.”
“It is true we are engaging waste collection companies to help us in their sorting and collection. We wish to build more awareness and willingness of people, even though our plan will involve some incentives to ensure efficient collection,” Kabera said.