Garbage into Growth

The earliest known urban garbage dumps are found in Crete, made over 5,000 years ago. Not long after that experiments with recycling began: Chinese societies reused bronze and the Aztecs routinely rescued usable materials from their garbage piles. Even regulation is not new: Athenian Greeks decided over 2,500 years ago that a dump should be located more than a kilometer away from settlements.

Growing urban populations are placing heavy demands on modern waste disposal, now a days it is much more necessary to get commercial roll off services in every city in order to help people understand the need for proper garbage disposal. There simply is no space to breathe, even in smaller municipal areas. This is made more acute by growing demand for responsible waste handling, driven by new environmental regulations. Even though such regulations are sound and broadly supported by nations, across Africa, implementation is very hard when it needs to be pinned on a running target: explosive population growth.

According to research conducted by United Nations Economics for Africa in 2012, poor waste management practices is amplifying urban sanitation problems around the continent’s cities. In many cases it has led to citizen-led initiatives. For example, self-help and private contractors groups in Nairobi, Kenya, has taken on the management and removal of waste to help prop up struggling public infrastructure. But shifting the city’s 900,000 tonnes of annual waste is difficult and only around half of the garbage is truly being disposed of or recycled properly.

Studies reveal that Nairobi’s waste and recycling communities can become self-sustaining and even profitable, but they need the help of national and local government to introduce effective waste management systems. Improvements in infrastructure and processes are urgently needed to support entrepreneurial waste collection enterprises and reduce the pressures of rural-urban migration.

If only the solution was as easy to make as that statement. Waste collection has to operate like clockwork or risk cascading into a series of massive disruptions. For example, the breakdown of a single truck can delay collection by a day, not only leading to upset citizens but a ripple effect across the entire management ecosystem. At the same time waste management outfits are under pressure to cut operational costs, so there may simply not be another truck to deploy.

Yet even if there was an available vehicle, how can operations identify the problem in an actionable time frame, all while managing the disruption over other areas? In some scenarios, such as a worker strike, the delays can become catastrophic, requiring weeks – even months – to recover all the overflow waste and align schedules back to normal.

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