Whether it’s a product of the Palma ratio and localised poverty, the fact that the West dumps a lot of its e-waste on poor African nations, or the fact that Africa has an underdeveloped waste disposal system, there are massive problems with waste and waste disposal in Africa.

Here are five different reasons why rubbish is causing a lot of problems in Africa:

1) E-waste

Richer countries have been dumping a lot of their electronic waste (or e-waste) on poorer African countries in places such as Ghana, rather than disposing of it properly themselves. Approximately 500 shipping containers from developed countries are dumped in Africa each month and the total amount of waste being dumped in Africa is around 50 million tonnes today. E-waste also contains dangerous chemical elements such as mercury and lead that is toxic both to the environment and people who are forced to scavenge through the trash heaps for anything of value.

2) Lower Recycling Rates In Africa

Africa has been found to have generated 108 million metric tonnes of waste in a 2012 study by the National Waste Information Baseline Report, which shows that out of 108 million tonnes a horrifying 98 million tonnes of waste went straight into landfill. Only 10% of all the trash produced in Africa then was recycled. However a waste disposal system cannot just be installed in Africa as roughly 60,000 people are informally employed to recycle trash and they could risk being replaced by more efficient garbage disposal units.

So, if local communities hand the waste disposal processes over to more formal companies, then the waste picking recyclers will lose their jobs, so it is difficult to reach a clear plan on how to deal with waste disposal properly without impacting on the lives of the waste pickers.

3) The Most Wasteful Countries in Africa

Whilst a lot of countries in Africa barely produce any waste due to economic impoverishment, there are some countries in Africa that do contribute a fair amount of waste, though African nations still lag far behind many other countries. Morocco, Algeria, Botswana, and Swaziland are some of the worst offenders for producing the most trash per year, some of them even rank in the top 20 worst trash producing countries.

4) Underdeveloped Waste Disposal and Collection

In certain states in Gambia there are far too few waste disposal units to collect rubbish and deposit it safely. In fact there has been an uprising of vigilantes who are attempting to tackle the growing waste disposal problem in Gambia. The Njau Recycling and Income Generation Groups (NRIGG) are the local trash vigilantes for this area.

Recycling stops rubbish from entering unregulated landfills and stops people burning the trash and releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere (burning plastics releases carbon monoxide into the air, a carcinogen that causes cancer). Thus NRIGG have undertaken a massive effort to rid their area of plastic burning to prevent the increase in cancer cases in their community.

5) Trash Problem in Cairo

Cairo is a city with a significant trash problem, producing 625 kg per person per annum. But what is really shocking is the solution of some of the people living there. A 2016 report stated that some Cairo citizens were actually feeding their trash to the pigs, which can obviously be harmful to the animals. However, spiritual groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have got involved and have for now stopped this odd waste disposal solution for religious reasons (and hopefully animal welfare reasons too!).