Communities Field Note: The Real Truth of Waste

What happens to the bottle or can of soda you throw away? It may seem like it has disappeared, but it hasn’t. Instead, it’s probably in a landfill – and it will be there for a long, long time.


In many cities around the world, waste management is a problem. Waste is anything that is thrown away and seen as not useful. In Botswana, waste is a widespread problem. Many areas have littering problems.


Botswana’s growing economy has led to more chances for employment. This means that more people have money to buy goods. And, this leads to more trash, or solid waste. Today, Botswana is been known as one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa. The majority of solid waste in Botswana is sent to a landfill.


The government of Botswana trying to protect the public health of its people. They have made programs and guidelines for waste management. However, Botswana still faces a lot of problems. The government needs to look at changing and supporting waste collection.


What community need did I learn about?


On a class field trip to the Gamodubu Regional Landfill, I saw the scary side of waste management. The Gamodubu Regional Landfill has big problems.  Gamodubu is only supposed to handle 65 thousand tons of waste every year, but it takes more than 79 thousand tons anyway. Our tour guide stated that the extra load of waste has shortened the lifespan of the landfill. Now it can only be used for 20 years. During my visit, some of the essential equipment was broken. It had been waiting to be fixed for nearly a year.


Why does the community have this need? 

There is no official recycling system in place in Botswana. Waste pickers go through waste. They collect recyclable to send abroad, usually South Africa.  Thousands of tons of recyclables go uncollected, however, and remains in the landfill.  The lack of a recycling system puts a lot of pressure on the landfill.


Is this need being met? How?

Botswana has not met its need for waste management. Only a small fraction of recyclables are collected from Gamodubu landfill. Instead of individual waste pickers, the government could have a waste collection program that offered recycling. Without action and change, Botswana’s government will have to deal with public health issues that could be stopped.

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