Global Partnership on Waste Management

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Submitted by Zambia Environmental Management Agency
  • Summary of information
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Waste plastics
  • Healthcare waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Industrial waste
  • Waste agricultural biomass (WAB)
  • Organic waste
  • E-waste
Summary of information
Highest priority waste streams
No prioritization provided
Highest priority areas of capacity building
1.Technical and scientific
2. Financial
3. Policy and regulatory
Narrative summary
The answers of the Zambian Environmental Management Agency indicate the importance of tackling waste management in a comprehensive manner. The need to develop and enforce legislation and integrate these regulatory efforts into a revised national waste management strategy is emphasized on several occasions. ZEMA itself has responsibility to provide technical guidelines on waste streams such as healthcare, hazardous and industrial waste. Developing technical guidance and making it available to policymakers, practitioners and communities is critical in increasing technical knowledge but challenging in terms of financing. With the private sector becoming active only with prospects of profitability, low staff capacity in public administration constitutes a challenge. Establishing educational and awareness raising programmes about the importance of waste minimization and recycling as well as the risks of hazardous waste streams, including healthcare, industrial and e-waste, is crucial in improving waste management in Zambia.

Municipal solid waste (MSW)
In Zambia, the cradle-to-grave management of municipal solid waste remains a challenge for policy makers, companies and households alike. While Zambia enacted policies and regulations and included, in 2011, the principles of extended producer responsibility (EPR) in its regulatory framework, full implementation has yet to be achieved. A priority for Zambian authorities, in particular at the local level, is improving the understanding and enhancing the utilization of tools that enable more effective waste minimization. Besides, guidelines on the selection and management of waste disposal sites as well as a national waste management strategy are in place but require technical revision. Capacity building on revising and implementing guidelines and strategies is therefore needed, both at the national and the local level. The lack of staff in national and local authorities constitutes a further challenge when it comes to revising and implementing MSW regulations and activities. Involving the private sector has proven to be efficient only in cases of profitable waste management areas. The Zambian Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) considers that to further encourage waste recycling, reuse and recovery, other areas will require continued focus by the public sector, rendering the mobilization of funds for awareness raising programmes as well as for the purchase of equipment and infrastructure a further priority.

Waste plastics
Waste plastics, a growing problem in Zambia, have not been addressed by any kind of policy or regulation. Hence, there is a need to develop legislation with regards to this particular waste stream. The responsible institution, ZEMA, will make consistent proposals to integrate the management of waste plastics into the revised national waste management strategy. Guidance and capacity building could support this process in making the strategy more comprehensive. The efforts made at the policy level will have to be complemented by improving capacities in the technical and financial realm. Local authorities and waste service providers need to acquire an understanding of the properties of plastics as well as of the technical options for treating them. The selection of the proper equipment needs to be followed by its purchase, enabling the most effective treatment of waste plastics. In order to reach the full potentials, the public needs to be sensitized about the non-biodegradable character of plastics and the existing possibilities of recycling them.

Healthcare waste
ZEMA considers the environmentally sound management of healthcare waste a priority for regulators and providers of healthcare services. Regulations on this particular waste stream exist but are poorly enforced. It lies within the responsibilities of ZEMA to provide guidelines on healthcare waste management to health centers and hospitals as well as healthcare waste service providers, a field where capacity building would be valuable. To improve performance, it is also necessary to channel resources into the purchase of more durable equipment and accessories for healthcare waste handling and disposal. Until now facilities are inadequate and technical and scientific knowledge is lacking. Even if public involvement is not so necessary for healthcare waste, it is important to raise awareness on waste segregation practices.

Hazardous waste
Zambia, having implemented the Basel Convention through various hazardous waste regulations, disposes of an adequate policy framework with regards to the management of hazardous wastes. The main hurdle to full implementation, however, is the lack of human resources in industries and regulatory bodies, capable of identifying and handling hazardous wastes. Moreover, Zambia requires assistance in developing and implementing tools for the measurement and gathering of data and the completion of inventories. The promotion of capacity building and technical guidance are fundamental in this regard. Concerning finances, Zambia faces serious challenges in funding waste management services and does not have a properly operating disposal facility for hazardous waste. To improve performance in the recycling, recovery and reuse of materials contained in hazardous waste, it will be necessary to allocate more resources to waste management in the future. Therefore, the active participation of the general public and companies will be required, as they will have important roles in identifying and separating the types of hazardous waste that can be recovered, recycled and reused. Informing the public about the characteristics and dangers of hazardous waste is equally necessary and will have to be supported by educational programmes.

Industrial waste
Industrial waste management is not yet included into Zambia’s regulatory framework. Even though reforms and developments are required in the policy field, ZEMA rates the lack of technical and scientific understanding as the main challenge. In particular, insufficient technical expertise among practitioners, ignoring the life-cycle approach, and the lack of technical guidance are hindrances for more effective management of industrial waste. Moreover, institutional arrangements exist in the field of industrial waste, even though staff numbers in the responsible agencies are too low for effectively handling the issue. As for the other waste streams, finances need to be made available, by both the industry and the public sector, in order to purchase the adequate infrastructure and to implement waste management activities. When it comes to the social dimension of industrial waste, the general public understands the dangers of industrial waste and takes basic measures to manage such waste when they come in contact with it. However, the public needs more awareness and detailed knowledge on the handling and disposal of industrial waste.

Waste agricultural biomass
Waste agricultural biomass (WAB) is not yet on the waste management agenda, with no specific regulations or policies in place. In order to increase knowledge and consequently develop management practices, technical and scientific support is necessary. The development of guidelines and concrete technical and policy advice as well as capacity building among stakeholders in the agricultural sector are required to start utilizing WAB in Zambia.

Organic waste
Even though there is no specific regulation in place, organic waste is dealt with under the general waste management legislation. The priority for ZEMA is to increase the knowledge on treatment and uses of organic waste throughout the waste generation chain, involving producers and consumers. In order to support this effort, it is necessary to start awareness raising programmes, sensitizing the general public about managing organic waste and applying reuse methods in their households and companies. Producing and disseminating information on the quantities of organic waste generated at the household level will be critical in achieving higher awareness and consequently improved waste management in Zambia. The lack of financial resources and  human resources within public administrations both remain challenges for implementing improved organic waste management practices.
Zambia is currently developing legislation that deals specifically with the increasingly important stream of e-waste. Building up an adequate policy and regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses e-waste is essential and could benefit from technical and financial support. In particular, the installation of treatment and disposal facilities is crucial to avoid the export of this type of waste. It is considered as absolutely essential to involve public administration, e-waste service providers and communities to more effectively recycle, reuse and recover the materials contained in e-waste. ZEMA will have to provide guidelines on e-waste management to all stakeholders handling e-waste. Moreover, establishing criteria for site selection and mobilizing the resources to set up pilot projects are further steps in achieving holistic outcomes for e-waste management. Finally, the involvement of the public, informing communities on the characteristics and impacts of e-waste and proper disposal methods, will also have an important role to play in improving the environmentally sound management of e-waste.