Surveying solid waste management
The management of solid waste can have a significant impact on human and environmental health. You need to be able to survey the ways that solid waste is managed in your area so that you can assess the situation and identify possible areas for improvement. The list of questions below indicates some of the issues that should be covered in your survey; you may think of other questions to include.
- How many of the households in your community have a compost pit?
- Do households without compost pits have adequate space to make one?
- Are there other opportunities for recycling or reuse of waste material?
- Does the community have a communal refuse disposal pit?
- How many people use each refuse pit?
- Is there a need for another communal pit?
- Are the refuse pits fenced and properly managed?
- Is there adequate equipment in your community for managing solid waste?
- Is there any open dumping of waste in your community?
Answering these questions will provide you with the baseline data you will need for planning improvements to the solid waste disposal facilities. If households do not manage their waste properly you may want to try to find out the reasons for this. It may be lack of resources such as money, space or labour, or there may be behavioural reasons that make people unwilling to use compost pits, for example. Understanding the reasons for the behaviour will help you to give advice to the family and indicate the most effective ways to promote good waste management practices.
After analysing your survey results, you may want to prepare an action plan. There are several possible measures that you could consider including in your plan to lessen the problems. You may want to promote general good practice by ensuring all households have adequate waste containers at home. You may need to ensure all pits are fenced and properly managed. You may need to mobilise the community to dig a new refuse pit, if your survey suggests that one is needed. You may want to focus on a specific problem like plastic bags. You could advise people to collect their plastic bags in one place for recycling and it may also be possible to encourage individuals and enterprises to undertake this profitable activity. You could encourage more reuse of plastic bags by suggesting that people take bags with them to the market or shop to be used again. You could promote other types of bag such as paper bags because they are made of biodegradable materials or permanent bags like cloth bags. You could get the local school involved and initiate a campaign among the children to collect waste bags to clean up the local environment.
Keep in mind that any action plan should be drawn up with the involvement of your community because it will not succeed without their full cooperation. You should include regular monitoring in your plan so you can assess if progress is being made.