Author: m.t.eiblmeier

Waste to value: upcycling plastics for women economic empowerment in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, is facing a constant struggle managing the ever-growing amount of waste produced across the city. Most of it is dumped on a landfill, which already exceeded its capacity years ago. This results in the pollution of water and soils, causing serious environmental and public health risks.

Waste management in the city involves collection of garbage at household level, sorting it by hand, delivering recyclable materials to wholesalers, and disposal of the rest. Plastics account for about 15,5% of the waste, and this component of the waste stream is increasingly attracting interest due to the recycling and reselling value of the material. Hundreds of small and micro enterprises (SMEs) are therefore active in this area of waste collection and separation, supplying the plastic recycling value chain.

women waste collectors
Plastic constitutes a significant part of the waste polluting the city of Addis Ababa. © GIZ/Meron Tadesse

Enhancing cross-sectoral collaboration for improved waste management

To enhance the efficiency of waste management in the city and thereby protect the environment from pollution, NatuReS supported the establishment of the multi-stakeholder “Partnership for Circular Value Chains”. The partnership offers a forum to strengthen coordination between SMEs working in the waste sector, public authorities, as well as civil society representatives advocating for environmental protection. This prevents the doubling of efforts, miscommunication and inertia that have often impeded effective waste management in the city. Together, partners defined concrete solutions and take actions to improve the plastic value chain in and around Addis Ababa.

Female waste collectors as most vulnerable part of the plastic value chain

The most vulnerable part of the plastic value chain are the waste collectors. Hundreds of people roam the city as informal waste collectors, scavenging for valuable plastics, metals, or carton. Next to these informal collectors, hundreds of formalized SMEs, employing a large number of people, collect waste from households. The price for one kilogram of PET plastic that collectors get paid by wholesalers is currently around 22 Birr (~0,38€).

women waste collectors
Women are a particularly vulnerable part of the plastic collection and recycling workforce across Addis Ababa. © GIZ/Meron Tadesse

Among the workforce of waste collectors, there are several groups of marginalized people. Many struggle to make a living from this job, facing harsh working conditions, unstable prices due to inflation and diminishing profit margins. Women are especially affected by these issues. They work all along the plastic value chain, from being collectors at household level to small entrepreneurs in the recycling business. However, in comparison to men, women are underrepresented within SMEs, as they often lack basic technical skills beyond collecting waste and are excluded from decision-making processes. 

Enhance waste management skills and business opportunities for women along the plastic value chain

The partnership therefore undertakes specific efforts to support women as part of the plastic waste workforce. Currently, 100 women from 16 waste management SMEs across four Addis Ababa sub-cities are capacitated to enhance their waste management skills and increase their business opportunities.

Firstly, during a three-day training, the women are supported in developing necessary business skills to run and grow their businesses. This includes aspects such as bookkeeping, understanding and developing market linkages, as well as the development of sound business plans to enhance their income.

Secondly, during practical sessions, the women receive skill development for diversified income strategies. This focused on plastic upcycling crafts, enabling the participants to make an income beyond collecting and re-selling plastic by upcycling their collected plastic waste themselves. Specifically, the 100 women were trained on techniques for the upcycling of plastic straps out of recycled PET plastic into baskets that can be sold on local markets.  

women basket weaving training
Training of women on basket waving technique using recycled plastic. © GIZ

Partnership efforts for female empowerment and more efficient upcycling across Addis Ababa

The training is provided with technical support from “PETCO Recycling Community Organization”, a partner under the partnership. Further support was provided through human resource contributions from the public sector partner, the Addis Ababa Cleansing Management Agency. In total, the training is running for 10 consecutive days, divided in four groups in four locations, to make the content as accessible and targeted to the trainees as possible.

Through the trainings, women are empowered to create a profitable side business along the plastic value chain. Weaving straps out of collected PET plastic waste into baskets will allow the women to diversify their income, mitigate plastic waste price fluctuations and overall strengthen their position as confident part of the recycling value chain.

Planning for a more inclusive future of waste recycling

This specific technique for producing baskets from recycled plastics is only one example, and only the start. The partnership envisions the creation of market linkages between companies and the female waste workers, and the establishment of a new enterprise which will exclusively engage women in upcycling projects. From previous technical trainings provided by partners, they know that the profit margin and demand for such types of upcycling products is high.

NatuReS virtual participation in UN Water Conference 2023 – Register here!

UN Water Conference 2023 Side Event: Sustainable Industrial Water Use through Eco-Industrial Park Approaches

Addressing the key theme “Water for Sustainable Development”, this side event will explore how Eco-Industrial Parks can be a key lever for the sustainable use of water in industry. Indeed, Eco-Industrial Parks (EIP) involve the holistic development of industrial areas towards circular economy, resource-efficiency, sustainability, risk reduction and resilience.

UN WATER CONFERENCE 2023 SIDE EVENT: Sustainable Industrial Water Use through Eco-Industrial Park Approaches

Water management is a key feature of the EIP approach, with criteria ranging from increased re-use of water (industrial effluents and rain water) and requirements to develop physical networks of reuse/ cascading of water. Moreover, a key tenet of an EIP is that they must not negatively impact local water sources or access to water by surrounding communities. Thus, all industrial wastewater must be treated to applicable environmental standards and 25 % of the water is required to be reused or recycled.

Water stewardship for more resilient industrial parks

Organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the World Bank Group and GIZ, with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), this session will feature presentations on activities promoting sustainable water use in industrial areas followed by concrete examples of the implementation of Eco-Industrial park approaches in Indonesia, Bangladesh and South Africa.

UN Water 2023

On behalf of NatuReS, Dr. Faith Lawrence, Country Coordinator for NatuReS in South Africa, will present about “Economic Resilience through Water Stewardship”, sharing experiences from implementing sustainable water management in industrial parks from South Africa.

The session will take place on 20 March, 2023 from 08:00-9:30 pm (GMT-5/NY) | 13:00-14:30 CET.

To register, click here!

Apiculture for more resilient communities around Ethiopian Lake Hawassa

The Lake Hawassa catchment in Southern Ethiopia is prone to erosion due to the property of the soil and the topography of the area, however immensely exacerbated by human activity. The expansion of small- and large-scale farms, conversion of wetlands into various land uses and rapid expansion of population and unplanned settlements have resulted in accelerating land degradation – and by consequence siltation of the lake due to sediments being washed into the water.

Partners under the Protecting Lake Hawassa Partnership are collaborating since 2018 to protect the lake from siltation and pollution. Copyright: GIZ

Stakeholders from public authorities, private companies and civil society have joined forces in 2018 under the “Protecting Lake Hawassa Partnership” to reduce risks affecting the lake collectively across sectors. One task force under the partnership promotes afforestation and soil erosion control measures to tackle the erosion and land degradation challenges.

Training 40 households on beekeeping and the creation of their own businesses

The training included the processing of bee wax. Foundation sheets were printed and fixed into frames by trainees. Copyright: GIZ/Bezuayehu Gebremichael

To increase the impact of ecosystem services from the newly forested areas, as well as to provide local communities with alternative income opportunities which are not damaging the environment – the area is threatened by widespread illegal sand mining- partners have upscaled apiculture activities. Previously, ten households had received three beehives each under the partnership, increasing communities’ income opportunities. Creating alternative livelihoods like apiculture or fruit production is an essential part of partnership activities, as environmental protection can only be successful in the long term if local communities either make a living from them or can generate income in an alternative way. An additional forty households were hence trained in beekeeping and business skills and provided with necessary equipment like modern beehives through the partnership. The forty households will also be supported in organising themselves into a cooperative for marketing their honey products as a group, increasing their market power.

Encouraging women towards apiculture

Experts from the Wereda Livestock and Fisheries Office took the lead in organizing the apiculture training, selecting and inviting trainees. The training was held at Hawassa Zuriya Wereda, Dore Bafano town, and was divided into two rounds of a seven-day training between 28th November and 19th December 2022. Two people attended from each of the 40 farmer households over the two rounds. 30% of the selected trained households are led by women, and it was key to reach as many female trainees as possible with the training, as women bear a significant share of work while being often excluded from decision-making processes. During the training, women were actively participating, interacting as well as answering questions from other participants. Several of them pointed out that they will be committed to irrigating bee floras and monitoring their bees daily.  

Trainees are sharing experiences in one of the working groups. Copyright: GIZ/Bezuayehu Gebremichael

Theoretical sessions contained technical aspects of apiculture like the pollination process or the importance of flora calendars. The larger part of the training however consisted of practical sessions, in which participants familiarized themselves with the beekeeping equipment, learnt how to process beeswax, how to manage a swarm, dividing and uniting colonies, curing diseases and processing honey. 

The correct processing of beeswax was an important part of the training. Copyright: GIZ/Bezuayehu Gebremichael

Necessary skills to establish honey cooperatives

During the practical sessions, the participants worked for example on melting and processing beeswax, printing casting moulds, and foundation sheets. They also discussed their personal experiences and learnt from each other during group exchange sessions.

Part of the training was also capacitating trainees to establish a honey producing and processing cooperative. Hence, in groups they developed action plans which include the set-up of selecting committees, business plans, and a concrete way forward for the cooperative. Every group presented their action plan to the rest of the members. The collective production, processing and selling of honey through a cooperative is essential for communities to establish themselves on the market and negotiate fair prices for their products.

Group photo of the trainees, an apiculture trainer, as well as experts from the Wereda livestock and fisheries office as part of the Protecting Lake Hawassa Partnership. Copyright: GIZ/Bezuayehu Gebremichael

Diverse livelihoods make resilient communities

Communities basing their income on diverse livelihoods are more resilient towards natural disasters, climate change or other unpredictable events. They are able to manage the available natural resources in a more sustainable way, allowing them to make a living from the environment while preserving it for future generations. Protecting Lake Hawassa partners strive to improve the joint management of natural resources around Lake Hawassa, for enhanced economic development and improved livelihoods of local communities.

Online event: “Stewardship for Circular Economy in urban contexts in Africa” featuring partners from multiple sectors

The sustainable management of natural resources requires shifting to a circular economy in which resources are used more efficiently, waste is reduced, and materials are recycled. During an online learning event organized by NatuReS on October 6th, 2022, partners from the public, private sector and civil society shared their experiences with promoting circular economy practices under a stewardship approach of cross-sectoral collaboration.

circular economy
The shift from a linear to a circular economy implies that resources are kept in the productive cycle as long as possible instead of being disposed after use.

Why stewardship?

The circular economy framework brings a new approach to waste and materials management, considering the whole life cycle of resources, while paying attention to sustainable production, supply and management of resources. Transitioning to a circular economy requires a collaborative effort from all sectors and can only succeed through coordination along supply chains and product cycles. Establishing multi-stakeholder partnerships under stewardship principles has been a successful way to introduce circular economy practices across countries.

While supporting partners in moving towards a circular economy, NatuReS is dealing with cross-cutting and interlinked challenges. How can waste streams be improved in fast growing cities and catchments? How can their impacts on water quality, health, ecosystems and flooding be reduced, while strengthening economic growth? How can waterways that transport waste – and plastics in particular – to the oceans be better controlled? An integrated natural resource stewardship approach combines aspects that are relevant to address plastics management issues and green economic development challenges.

Partner experiences with circular economy partnerships

Mrs. Patience Nsereko, Principal Environment Officer at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of Uganda, opened the floor with remarks about the Greater Kampala PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. She pointed towards the importance of partnering with the private sector, namely Ecobrixs, a Ugandan social enterprise working on plastic recycling, to come up with innovative solutions for the country’s plastic challenges. One example is the Innovation Hub, which was recently launched under the partnership at the International University of East Africa (IUEA) in Kampala. Students will be trained in recycling practices and enabled to start their own businesses in the sector. “Since Ecobrixs is already active in the market, we hope that this will help students to think outside of the box”, stated Mrs. Nsereko. Asked about partnership successes, she mentioned the improved cross-sectoral collaboration: “The regulations developed will have a better buy-in from the private sector, as policy recommendations have been actively requested by them.”

Students
IUEA students during the launch of the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub. Copyright: GIZ/Simon Akena.

Naa Adjeley Kome-Mensah from the plastic recycling company and “African start-up of the year 2022”, Kubik, gave an input about their involvement in the Partnership for Circular Value Chains in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company turns low-value plastic waste into building material. Under the partnership, waste collecting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are trained in waste segregation and business management, as well as provided with collection tools, to enhance their efficiency of supplying plastic within the value chain. Kubik will then purchase the plastic for their production from these SMEs. A special focus lies on the empowerment of women, many of whom are working as informal waste collectors, capacitating them to become a formal part of the value chain.

plastic waste into building material
Naa Adjeley Kome-Mensah explaining the transformation of plastic waste into building material. Copyright: GIZ

The Lusaka Water Security Initiative (LuWSI), represented by its acting coordinator Mr. Kasenga Hara, who is also the Senior Inspector at the Zambian National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO), is promoting circular economy practices as a means to increase water security in Lusaka. By protecting wellfields from solid waste pollution, for example, the water quality in the area is increased. The involvement of communities is key in this regard according to Mr. Hara: “It takes quite some energy to bring all partners on board, but without the increase of communities’ decision-making power, the partnership efforts are meaningless.”

Local solutions to global challenges

Partners from all sectors have come up with different local solutions to promote the circularity of value chains. What unites them is the realization that sustainable local solutions are only  possible through the multi-sectoral collaboration under a partnership. Examples include the “Green Spaces” in Lusaka, where community members, mainly women, are turning organic waste into methane gas for cooking, compost as organic fertilizer to grow tree seedlings and vegetables, and as food for the production of black soldier fly larvae which is a good source of proteins for animals. This project was presented by Ian Matimba from People’s Process on Housing and Property Zambia and Alice Phiri who is a community member from Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation. Different LuWSI partners committed to the green spaces, be it through resource mobilization, accessing the organic waste, capacity building or negotiating with local land owners and authorities.

Overview of achievements with a backdrop of the women from the green spaces showing the black soldier fly larvea produced from organic waste. Copyright: People’s Process on Housing and Property Zambia

Andy Bownds, founder and CEO of Ecobrixs in Uganda highlighted the establishment of the Plastic Recycling Innovation Hub at IUEA as an important achievement which was made possible through the Greater Kampala PET Plastic Recycling Partnership. Together with NEMA, the company strives to create a platform for informal waste collectors under the partnership. This is key to  empower the whole supply chain. At the moment, they are jointly establishing the Uganda Recycling Association made up of informal waste collectors. In the long-run, the aim is to create a fair-trade plastic recycling system in which it is possible to trace back under which conditions plastic has been collected and recycled. Thus, transparency and accountability along the value chain can be enhanced.    

plastic upcycling Uganda
Examples of products made from recycled plastic. Copyright: Ecobrixs/Andy Bownds

Finally, Takele Dessisa, Director of Research & Consultancy Services at the Addis Ababa Cleansing Management Agency in Ethiopia presented the manual baling machines developed and piloted under the Partnership for Circular Value Chains in Addis Ababa. Reacting to the fact that waste collectors need a way to efficiently store and transport the light yet voluminous PET plastic, yet do not have regular access to electricity, partners jointly developed manual baling machines. These are designed to be also handled by women and people with limited physical strength. A prototype has been tested at selected waste collecting SMEs and is currently being adapted according to feedback. Waste collectors can store and transport baled PET more easily and including at higher prices, which enables them to enhance their operations and hence their income. Through this intervention, partners aim at enhancing the efficiency of the plastic recycling value chain in Addis Abeba, thereby reducing the amount of plastic waste polluting the city’s  soils and water bodies.

manual baling machine
Waste collectors in front of the prototype manual baling machine. Copyright: GIZ/Meron Tadesse

As different as the solutions to promote circular economy practices shown during the event were, they all have one element in common: without cross-sectoral collaboration, they would not have been possible. The stewardship approach of taking joint responsibility for shared natural resources has proven successful in the showcased examples.

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NatuReS is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and co-funded by the European Union and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). This website’s contents are the sole responsibility of GIZ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BMZ, European Union or FCDO.

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