Fixing cracks in Tanzania’s waste system

Written by
Olarip Tomito
May 11, 2021

This blog was written as part of our partnership with UNESCO’s Trash Hack campaign. Trash Hacks are tips and tricks to help reduce waste which can lead to big ideas for the planet. Find out more or post your own #TrashHack on social media: https://www.trashhack.org/

Olarip Tomito, a youth activist dedicated to the fight against waste in Tanzania, gives his advice on mapping and “plogging”, emphasizing the importance of community involvement.

Volunteers during World Cleanup Day, 2018. Photo Credits: Bin Hussein

Volunteers during World Cleanup Day, 2018. Photo Credits: Bin Hussein

My name is Olarip Tomito, I am a youth activist advocating United Nation SDGs 2030 in Dar as Salaam. It is the  fastest  growing  and  most  populated city in Tanzania. Dar es Salaam is currently Africa’s fifth most populous city. It is projected to grow from six million people today to 13.4 million by 2035, crossing the “megacity” threshold of 10 million people sometime before 2030.

Living here in my childhood and coming back for studies, I noticed that the city grows every day. It is over-populated and has many challenges with waste management. This city produces around 4,600 tons of waste per day but only 40% of waste goes to a dump site. This means 60% ends up outside of the formal waste system, often in water drains and the ocean. This trash blocks drains causing flooding and increases the outbreak of many diseases including mosquito borne (Malaria, Dengue Fever), typhoid and cholera (Dar es Salaam City Council, DCC).

I was once stuck in traffic jam for hours going home because of flooded road and blocked bridge that connect to the city centre. One Friday evening, I got event notification on Facebook for a beach clean-up coming up. The next day I volunteered to roll up my sleeves and clean the beach.  It felt to me a worthy thing to do daily rather than doing nothing at all “a difference” and when I found out the clean-up was a monthly event, I signed up to help again. It was starting point of all my activism towards doing something to raise awareness about poor waste management and it impacts. Tanzania Urban Resilience Program (TURP) annual report of 2019 under World Bank highlighted that “Three days of flooding in Dar es Salaam in 2018 cost the city over $100 million with other severe loss of lives and properties destructions.” This affects government budget, the economy, community services and harmony. 

Through my volunteering spirit in community clean-ups, I was enrolled with Nipe Fagio, a civil society organization who are country leaders of  Siku ya Usafi Duniani, which is a Swahili word for  “World  Cleanup day” a  civic and global movement working together to solve the waste crisis. I attended the kick-off back in 2018 with 33 intro events, 25 Train of Trainers, 30 Community awareness bazaar and 68 pre clean-ups. I  was  selected as a Youth Ambassador and community mobilization officer  for their programs.

Plogging is an eco-friendly fun activity which literally means jogging while picking up trash. It was an honour training the first Tanzanians ploggers from 20 jogging clubs in the Dar es Salaam,  Saadani  National Park and Beach Management Unit. The first Tanzania  Plogging  event was on 1st September 2018 involving government delegates, embassies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), Joggers, environmental activists and launching of a plastics pavilion built at “Coco Beach”.

Olarip during a community cleanup in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam.  Photo Credits: Khamis Hamad

Olarip during a community cleanup in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam.
Photo Credits: Khamis Hamad

HOW CAN YOU ORGANIZE A PLOGGING CLEAN-UP EVENT? IT IS SIMPLE:

Step 1: Download Trash Out App

Download and install the World Cleanup Day Trash out App in your smartphone in play store or Appstore, it is easy to use and user interactive. 

Step 2: Site visit, routing and mapping 

Select the area or site that you wish to conduct plogging clean-up event and use the App to map trash. This will help you to know the extent and visual impression of waste impacts of the area. Choose the route you will use for jogging, verify which road is less jammed and check the weather.

Step 3: Look out for permit and call for volunteers  and  community engagement   

If needed, seek out a permit to host event in your area from authorities. Once granted, let community know by word of mouth or posting in social media platforms. Invite jogging clubs who are in your area.

Step 4: Arrange for clean-up event

Plan how you will coordinate and manage volunteers and ploggers, clean-up materials, and how you will transport collected waste to dumpsite. Look out for both formal and informal recyclers for collected recyclables. Host your event, have fun, and enjoy!

Step 5: Conduct waste and brand audits 

Before taking waste to dumpsites, make sure you conduct waste and brand audits to  identify  what types  of  waste  were  mostly  identified  for records and data. You can share data with Break Free from Plastic organization. These information help in raising awareness, lobbying and advocacy with community and policy makers. 

Step 6: Celebrate and share results 

Share and tell a story about your Plogging events reports, pictures, or videos. They will motivate and influence people to act and do something. 

As Nipe Fagio Youth Ambassador and youngest Community mobilization officer for past three years, I have been able to attend local government meetings and consultations concerning environment issues and waste management. I was able to change a dumpsite (one among the site I coordinated) near a school playground into a vegetable garden!

Later, I was invited and attended many national and international conferences most notably “Young leaders Forum” in Uganda, “Arab and African Youth Platform” in Egypt and “Tanzania International Model of United Nation (TIMUN)”. My climate action success story was acknowledged and listed in “UNICEF Championing Change Through advocacy” as a young advocate representing Tanzania with my fellow colleagues.

Additionally, this movement has pushed and influenced “Plastic bag ban” in the country, which has introduced severe action against plastic pollution. The Government of  Tanzania placed a prohibition on plastic bags effective June 1, 2019. All plastic carrier bags, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied, and used in Mainland Tanzania.

In essence, Word Cleanup Days are certainly not about cleanliness only, it is a platform for young people like me and you to awake and ring bells concerning “trash blindness” in all continents towards waste pollution.  

A report from the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health revealed that, “Environmental pollution is killing more people every year than smoking, hunger or natural disasters.”  Introducing recycling, upcycling and zero waste philosophy can be one among the best  waste  practice approaches for sustainable communities.  

It is high time to reflect on one Swahili  saying  “Usipoziba ufa, utajenga ukuta”, which means “If you don’t seal a crack in the  wall,  you  will  have to build a complete  wall.”  Odds are we act now, there is no planet B!  

Olarip Tomito, a youth activist dedicated to the fight against waste in Tanzania, gives his advice on mapping and “plogging”, emphasizing the importance of community involvement.
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