Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Introduction: Why Start a Solid Waste Project?

The mismanagement of solid waste is an issue that affects the majority of communities here in Peru. The rapid growth of the Peruvian economy and the expansion of consumer products to the most remote corners of the country are only exacerbating Peru’s waste problem. Waste management will continue to be a pressing problem in many Peruvian communities, both urban and rural, without a radical change of attitudes and behaviors.

In the last couple of years, Peru has reached a tipping point with regard to solid waste management issues. The national solid waste law was passed in 2000, requiring all municipalities to develop a solid waste management plan. While many municipalities have not complied with the law, many others have already developed solid waste management plans and taken steps to implement them. Additionally, there are many governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and even local community organizations making progress in certain communities on this issue. In spite of municipal inertia and the challenges of promoting responsible consumers, this is a great time to be working on waste management issues in Peru.

Some may have an interest on waste management issues but are simply overwhelmed by the scale of the issue. Others, recognizing the gravity of the problem but not the limits of their influence, aim to launch a comprehensive waste management program only to end up disappointed. The reality is that individuals can make a significant difference in their communities working with solid waste management, especially considering the breadth of issues involved with waste:

public health
environmental health
environmental education
municipal development
empowerment of communities
income generation.

In order to avoid the common frustrations experienced by those working on solid waste management projects, this manual has been written to help explain the process of facilitating the planning and implementation of a waste management system that is appropriate for the community.

Getting Started

Is a Waste Management Program Feasible?

Do one or many of these conditions exist in the community?

  • The community has identified solid waste as a priority

  • The municipality has demonstrated interest and commitment to solid waste issues

  • Technical experts are available in the municipality or in the district

  • Community leaders talk about solid waste as a problem

  • Community leaders demonstrate their ability to mobilize the population to achieve a common goal

  • Community members complain about trash in the streets/river/etc.

  • Woman complain about the poor health of their children that could be linked to the improper disposal of waste (diarrhea and respiratory diseases)

While all these conditions are not necessary to start a waste management program, they are a rough way to gauge interest and the ability of the community to organize a waste program. The only accurate way to measure these conditions is through the completion of the waste diagnostic.

Step 1: Forming a Planning Team

The planning and development of the waste diagnostic is a great way to involve the community in the first hands on activity of a waste management plan. It is important to first identify all the key stakeholders and community leaders that would want to be part of the planning process:

Municipal Authorities
Local Businesses/Companies/Associations
Local Health Authorities
Local Universities or Technical Schools
Primary & Secondary Schools
Parent Teacher Organizations
Mother’s Clubs
Environmental Committees (CAM)
Health Committees (CLAS)
Church Parish/ Church Group
Youth Groups
Local leaders

Once these actors have been identified, call a community meeting or meet in small groups (whichever system works best in the community) to discuss the waste management planning process (remember, you have to sell it). With those that are interested in participating, formulate an action plan with specific activities, a timeline and responsible parties. Here is an example of an action plan:

Step 2: Waste Diagnostic

Duration: 1 – 4 months

Goals - Determine:
  • generation and composition of waste in the community
  • storage and disposal habits of community members
  • attitudes of community members towards waste and waste disposal in the community
  • attitudes of health and municipal authorities towards waste and waste disposal in the community

In order to develop a waste management plan appropriate for the community, you must start by completing a thorough waste diagnostic analyzing the generation, storage and disposal of solid waste along with the attitudes of community members, health authorities and municipal authorities with regard to waste in the community.

There are four basic components of a complete waste diagnostic:

- Household Surveys
- Municipal and Health Center Surveys
- Waste Generation and Classification Study
- Presentation of the Results to the Community

Step 2 (cont): Community Surveys

Household Surveys:

The household survey is your opportunity to converse directly and frankly with members of the community regarding their waste generation, storage and disposal habits and their attitudes and opinions about waste and waste disposal in the community. This information will be critical in helping you design a waste management program appropriate for the community. Household surveys will vary depending on the size, economic level, consumption level, local customs and information that the waste program planners are looking for. Here are some general tips to help you get started on your survey

  • Always design and implement surveys with community members or a community group if possible
  • Hold a planning meeting with participating community members to describe the purpose and plan the logistics of the survey (day of the week, time, designation of sectors, etc)
  • Hold a mini-training with the survey team a couple days before the survey to go over the questions on the survey and give tips for successful interviews (including: a clear explanation of the survey purpose, non-directive question delivery, discreet observation of the household environment to ensure accurate responses, politeness and saying thank you, etc.)
  • The day of the survey set time limits to ensure the completion of the surveys in a timely manner
  • Hold a small celebration to thank the survey team and mark your accomplishment

See Appendix A for an example of a Household Survey

Municipal and Health Center Surveys:

The municipal and health center surveys will provide important information about the attitudes and opinions of local municipal and health officials along with their organizational and financial capacities. Even if you these entities have not to date expressed an interest in participating in planning the waste management program, they are key sources of information in the community. Additionally, the diagnostic is a good opportunity to show the health and municipal authorities that the waste program planning process is well organized and professional. This image will encourage local authorities to be more likely to support and participate in the waste program in the future. Like the household surveys, the municipal and health center surveys will vary between communities. Here are some general tips to help you with your surveys:

  • Formally introduce yourself to the municipality (health center) and/or the mayor (doctor/nurses) if you have not already done so and explain the reason for and indicate your intention to complete a waste survey with the municipality (health center) at a later date
  • First impressions are important, act professional and confident even if you aren’t (Bring a friend/family member/counterpart if you do not feel comfortable)
  • Try to work with the mayor (doctor/nurse) or another official with authority on the municipal survey
  • Invite the mayor (doctor/nurse) and other important officials to the presentation of the waste diagnostic results and indicate your desire to work with them (even if the show no interest)

See Appendix B for en example of a health center survey
See Appendix C for an example of a municipal survey

Step 2 (cont): Waste Generation and Classification Study

Materials: trash bags, safety equipment (mask, gloves and goggles), balance, large barrel, plastic sheet for waste classification

The Waste Generation and Classification study aims to track the generation and characteristics of waste in the community through the study of a sample set of households over a defined period of time. The volume and characteristics of waste dictate what can be done with it and what waste management system will be the most appropriate for the community (Note: this is a really dirty activity)

  1. Choose a sample size of households that is representative of the community (for a community of 250 houses, 30 houses); If there a specific sites that generate large amounts of waste (markets, stores, businesses, etc.) conduct separate waste studies

  2. Organize a waste study team responsible for collecting samples and analyzing the waste collected (at least 5 people, depending on the size of the community) and explain the purpose of the activity

  3. Work with the waste study team to identify households to participate in the study (save all the trash generated in the household daily and give the sample to the waste study team every morning for a week) and confirm the participation of these households

  4. Work with the waste study team to collect samples from the selected households every morning for a week

  5. Weigh the collected samples to measure the total mass of waste generated per day and approximate an average rate of waste generation per person per day. Also calculate the average density of waste generated.

  6. Separate the combined samples into paper, glass, metals, plastics and organic material and weigh each component to determine the percentage

  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for a week and average the calculated values over the week

  8. Thank the waste study team

(see APPENDIX D for the results of a waste diagnostic in a rural Peruvian community)