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WasteAid trainees making charcoal briquettes from organic waste

Image: Mike Webster, WasteAidUK (with Women’s Initiative of The Gambia)

Waste management is something we tend to take for granted. Yet half of the world’s population lives without waste collection, treatment and safe disposal.

With a growing population and an increasingly vulnerable environment, there has never been a better, nor more urgent, time to share knowledge about managing resources sustainably.

Such is the story of WasteAid UK, a charity that connects poor and vulnerable communities to waste management resources and expertise.

Mike Webster, chair and project manager of WasteAid UK is currently in The Gambia, where he is working with local communities to help solve their growing waste problem and develop sustainable livelihoods.

The country’s first ever waste composition analysis revealed how effective the informal recycling sector is – very little glass, ferrous metals and plastic bottles are “lost” to disposal, and are instead extracted by hand for re-use and recycling.

So what of the remaining wastes? With help from WasteAid UK:

  • Woody wastes are being converted into charcoal, reducing the demand for firewood and resulting deforestation problems;
  • Food waste is being turned into compost, reducing the need for expensive chemical-based fertilisers that can pollute waterways and destroy natural habitats;
  • Plastic film is being reprocessed into paving slabs, gutters and local sanitary toilet holes.

Working with Women’s Initiative The Gambia and the local technical college, WasteAid UK is also building a recycling centre that will be used to manage wastes and train others, improving people’s income, their environment and the health of their entire communities.

Mike is also planning to trial a collection system from hotels and tourist areas, develop a waste demonstration and training platform showcasing such technologies, and train 25+ youth and women recycling entrepreneurs.

WasteAid UK is part of a new wave of organisations helping to improve people’s lives and the environments they rely on. By sharing knowledge, experience and stories, we hope that more people will be inspired to develop and replicate workable solutions.