Various studies completed over the past decade have shown a steady increase in the amount of waste generated in Kigali, increasing from around 400 tonnes per day to 800 tonnes per day.
The trend is inevitable as the city is experiencing rapid urbanisation. However, it appears proper waste management is yet to be prioritised by city authorities.
On paper, Rwanda and Kigali City have a proactive approach to improve the environment, build a clean and green city but implementation and enforcement is still largely lacking.
On one hand, Kigali City has successfully managed to keep its streets clean of littering as is the case in many cities around the world. On the other, the same city still largely fails to manage its waste.
Now, garbage collectors around the city are cashstrapped and unable to maintain their operations, casting a shadow over the city authorities prefer to be seen as ecofriendly.
While all sectors of the economy have been negatively affected by the strict lockdown imposed by the government to contain the coronavirus, garbage collectors and recycling businesses were not listed among priority sectors for bailouts.
They should have received a special bailout package as essential service providers to allow them continue their operations partly because Kigali city, which aspires to be a clean and green city, cannot afford to allow its residents to drown in waste.
Kigali City authorities should have foreseen and planned to avert the current crisis, for example, by putting in place measures to ensure that city dwellers continue to meet their financial obligations as waste generation did not stop during the pandemic.
Beyond setting up a special fund, the city could link city garbage collectors to telecom operators to introduce a toll free line for garbage collection and mobile payments.
It is also high time the city authorities came up with measures to enforce waste sorting at household level to reduce the workload for garbage collectors.
What is more, sorting waste at the household level not only saves costs and energy but it also make it easy to identify items of recycling which could be reused instead of being placed in a landfill which is already operating above capacity, raising risk of health hazards.
Rwanda Today understands that while previous Kigali City authorities had considered partnering with private investors to produce clean energy from recycling waste, the project was abandoned after it emerged that the cost was prohibitive.
However, given the significant risks associated with poor waste management, it is imperative that the city council reconsiders and fast tracking recycling projects to save the environment.
More importantly, the city council needs to take decisive steps to improve waste management by supporting garbage collectors as well as recycling businesses to ensure business continuity.