Research Component

The Cycle of waste in Addis Ababa



Since Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia, modern economic activities, social and infrastructural services are found relatively in a better situation than other cities of Ethiopia. However, their development is too slow to meet the demands of the increasing population due to both natural growth and rural-urban migration. In particular, the complete inadequacy of the solid waste management system is the major environmental problem in Addis Ababa. Therefore, ENDA ETHIOPIA undertook an extensive action-oriented research, focusing on four major components.

1. Household waste management

The areas of Akaki and Zebegna Sefer were selected for collecting data on the management of household waste. Surveys were respectively conducted by youth aged 16-19, most of them still students and members of the Akaki Red Cross Environment Club, and by a group of young women from Zebegna Sefer aged 20-25. The findings of these surveys are detailed in the section dedicated to Household waste management. Collected data show that separation of waste and recycling are much more developed in poor than in well-to-do households since low-income families widely use their waste as an economic resource : cow dung, for instance, is used to plaster floors and walls or can be processed into dung cakes and used as fuel. The two groups also collected representative stories ascertaining the seriousness of waste-related problems and organised a debate on the awareness level of their respective neighbourhood.

2. Waste collection and disposal by municipal services

Municipal waste collection is handled in three ways :

In practice, 85% of the waste is collected through the container system. However, although the objective of the concerned authority is to service them every 2 or 3 days, containers are actually emptied every 3 weeks on average. Besides, some households are located 1 km away from the closest container. This system being impractical, people tend to throw their waste in sewers and ditches. The equipment used for collecting waste is itself inadequate since it comes from industrialised countries. Also, all the solid waste collected by the municipality is brought to a single landfill, Repi dumping site, and it proves difficult to prevent scavengers from scratching through hazardous waste, despite protective measures taken by the authorities.


Metal sheet traders and collectors


3. Recycling

Like in most developing countries, recycling in Ethiopia is practised informally. The collection of recoverable waste is highly organised with its huge network of dealers and wholesalers throughout the country. Then there are craftsmen who recycle metal, wood, rubber, clay to provide essential goods to great number of customers nation wide. The nucleus of theses activities is Merkato.

ENDA conducted a whole survey on Collectors that provide recyclable materials to wholesalers and small dealers, namely individual collectors (usually women and children), scavengers at Repi dumping site and qorales (itinerant waste buyers).

ENDA also asked two young recyclers to interview operators of their sector, so that the latter would feel at ease and free to express themselves. The extensive study on Informal recycling in Merkato is entirely based on their written records. It deciphers the complex network of operators involved in recycling-related activities, then focuses more specifically on the recycling of metal, tyres, enset (false banana tree) waste and powdered charcoal, and on the making of religious candles and straw mattresses.

4. Policy and legislation

A workshop on solid waste management in Addis Ababa was organised in October 1998. Although the issue of solid waste management is addressed in several policy and strategy documents, these are not effectively implemented or enforced. The role and contents of laws in connection to waste management should be designed not only to establish prescriptions or prohibitions, but also to implement other positive intervention mechanisms such as incentives and the creation of management tools.

It is also worth noting that the importance of the Informal Sector Operators (ISO) has been officially recognised by the Government, the private sector and commercial banks who consider co-operating with ISOs to promote micro-enterprises.