PBL – A student’s perspective from the Sustainable Solid Waste Student Challenge in Zambia

Picture of the team of students from the University of Zambia with our supervisor at the council.

I was part of the group of students from the University of Zambia that was handling the ownership and legal issues part of the project. The experience was fun and exciting for me and I learned a lot on solid waste management that I didn’t know before. Before this challenge came through, there was so much ignorance I had about how to manage solid waste sustainably and some of the effects of improper management of solid waste posse on both the environment and the public health. I should mention that after the challenge I have taken up the role of not just ensuring I reduce the amount of waste I generate by reusing, reducing and recycling where possible but that I teach people around me to practice these principles.

The challenge first began with introductions as the team was assembling for the first time and comprised students from Zambia, Kenya and Finland. We set some house rules and we were on with some lessons on solid waste management. With the guidance of our mentor we were able to schedule meetings where we came up with objectives to undertake the student challenge. Among the objectives was setting up meetings with local authorities to obtain information on the regulations that guided the solid waste management system in Zambia, this was the first trip that we had.

The second trip arranged was to the Chunga landfill and this involved observing the way waste was sorted at the landfill before filling. In addition, we also observed and collected data on the different solid waste tariffs that the land fill operator (which in this case is Lusaka City Council) uses to ensure the costs of operating the landfill are met. At the landfill there are several different equipment used for the filling and compaction of the waste but at the time of our visit, they were not functional as they had been broken due to inadequate maintenance.

The local council also highlighted some of its challenges in dealing with issues to do with solid waste management and that the biggest issue still remains the poor culture by many who have little or no knowledge about sustainable management of solid waste and that solid waste is a resource.

Written by: Mathews Simukoko, University of Zambia