The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Pomona, final stage that councils must feed


THE importance of disposing of garbage properly was highlighte­d this week at the groundbrea­king ceremony for the new Geo Pomona waste management system in northern Harare, a ceremony attended by President Mnangagwa, both Vice Presidents and a host of ministers and officials.

Garbage is not a glamorous subject, but it is a critical one and unless it is disposed of properly, it will generate, and has generated, disease, fire, toxic pollution and through earth-fill real and potential contaminat­ion of undergroun­d water sources for many decades to come.

So the switch-over from the overwhelme­d landfill that served Harare in the early days, and was a poor and dangerous substitute for something better as the city and its large surroundin­g towns continued to expand, is necessary and needs to be implemente­d.

There are several solutions to major city garbage, some bad and some good. One possibilit­y has always been the solution in portions of Europe where residents sort their rubbish and slot it into different coloured bags for collection.

This can reduce significan­tly the non-recyclable element to a fairly small percentage of the total carted away, but it still requires some system to process that last chunk.

Zimbabwe has a problem in getting residents to use even just one bag, let alone a raft of them, and garbage collectors empty bins if they are lucky and all sort of damaged and sodden boxes and the like if they are not.

Sorting and packing in different coloured bags may come along later, but at the moment the main struggle is just getting the rubbish in the bin in the first place.

The Geo-Pomona system can cope with the unsorted garbage with assorted techniques that will pull some of the recyclable materials out, and operate incinerato­rs for the bulk.

These are to be used to generate up to 22MW of electricit­y, a sort of garbage-fuelled thermal, and that can easily be sold inside Zimbabwe so generating revenue for Geo-Pomona.

That money can be used to offset additional costs of more modern processing, and even make dents in the existing costs.

There is a major long-term saving, finding new land for earthfill. Over the decades Harare municipali­ty has moved its main dumpsite across the city, filling the original clay pits used to harvest clay for the earliest buildings, taking over quarries and the like as it continuall­y seeks new land.

Quarries had the advantage that they were originally away from buildings, since no one wanted to build too close to a daily explosion, and had depression­s that could be filled.

Pomona was a quarry not all that long ago. The quarrying is now all moved outside city limits, because it is too dangerous inside city boundaries, so there are no more to come, and Pomona was filling fast.

There is not that much land left that can be used as a dumpsite, accumulate a thick layer many metres deep of garbage, and then be covered in earth and left for a few centuries.

Whatever open space is left we now need to use as open space, not a dump. We cannot ring the city with garbage dumps.

It is probably worth stressing that the new Pomona operation is not an all or nothing choice. We can still sort garbage and build up the sorting.

Ideally in the end clean papers and cardboard packaging, clean tins, clean glass in the basic colours, and the clean and sorted thermoplas­tics can be pulled out at the level of a business or household and sold separately as raw materials.

That will still leave a lot of garbage for Geo Pomona to process.

We could even start quite soon with some sorting, the residue of the major farmer markets in Mbare and several other centres, mostly in southern Harare.

It should be fairly easy, especially with a the bulk of the organic garbage coming from suppliers and sellers involved in a single industry.

We would still need to collect the ordinary garbage from the areas for eventual trucking to Pomona, but we could collect separately the dead and rotten vegetables and fruit and truck these to separate sites where they could be stacked in compost pens and converted over a few months to a high-quality natural fertiliser, that could be sold off to the farmers.

After all they have space in their trucks when they leave town after a delivery.

One area that President Mnangagwa has stressed, and taken efforts to solve, is the initial collection of garbage across Harare Metropolit­an. We might reasonably soon have a high-technology very modern processing station, but we still the trucks to collect the garbage to be processed and taken there, and that done as it was until recent years daily from businesses and weekly from households.

As we build up revenue from garbage, through selling power or initial salvaged materials, we might well have more money to bring the garbage, although this will probably always require something collected with the rates although hopefully less. But at the beginning we need the garbage at Pomona before we can earn anything.

The second problem, and here the President has been ever more persistent, is to get Zimbabwean­s to actually put the garbage in the bin, instead of just scattering it around the streets and pavements or throwing it out of car windows into the fields.

This is not something Geo Pomona can do; they will process it when it comes.

It is not even something that the garbage trucks can do; they can take it to Pomona from the bins. It requires us to put the garbage in the bins and bags in the first place.

The Pomona site is vital for greater Harare, and something similar will be now, or in the foreseeabl­e future, in Bulawayo and other large and growing cities.

We cannot keep using 19th century methods. But this sort of technology is not a single cure all. It is an important stage, and a final stage, in a long process that involves every resident and efficient local authoritie­s and other agencies.

It makes the modern system possible, but it cannot create the collection and delivery chain.

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