By 2020, Morocco plans to install a solid waste treatment plant in every one of the country’s urban centers.
I knew a woman who had questionable hygiene and eventually became chronically depressed. At first her car and home had the odd coke bottle and junk food wrapper tossed on the floor, but in time, both became major dumps. And the bigger the dump, the less strength she had to do anything about it. This is how our global waste problem feels.
What once started with the odd chocolate wrapper on the street has metastasized into heaps of the stuff. Everywhere we look there are seemingly insurmountable mounds of bottles and plastic bags and banana peels, the disposal of which seems impossible. But Morocco has pulled itself together and demonstrated that it’s not impossible, nor that hard, to come up with a better plan.
James Martone with the World Bank reports that Morocco recognized that city garbage dumps are environmentally unhealthy, and a serious public health concern. With 6 million tonnes of trash a year to contend with, and a series of informal dumps, the country needed a clever new plan.
Mehdi Chalabi from the Department of Environment said that by 2014, landfills will be covered and closed, posing less threat, and that by 2020, all of Morocco’s urban centers will have their own solid waste plant.
With help from the World Bank, they established the Oum Aza Cooperative solid waste treatment facility just outside the capital Rabat. 1300 tonnes from thirteen communities is offloaded at this new plant, where waste goes through various sorting stages.
First organic waste is separated from glass, metals, plastics, and cartons, which is then sent by conveyor belt to the second floor where recyclables are bagged for future sale. The organic waste is transferred to a giant compost heap. Also, liquid waste is prevented from seeping into the soil.
Not only is the waste system more centralized, but also more egalitarian. Former dump workers were transferred to the landfill where they work under a union run by themselves.
Hanan, who manhandles trash with only one glove, prefers the new facility. “Trash used to be dumped everywhere,” she said, “now there are rules.” Another employee said that sorting in one place makes a difficult job less so.
Getting a handle on trash is better for the environment, and for the people.
More solid waste plans in the Middle East: