New Waste Pickup System Causes Headaches

Addis Abeba is transforming its waste management system to make it more streamlined and automated, but the changeover is causing some growing pains to residents who complain about untimely pickup of waste from homes and businesses.

The cities residents are finding it hard to stomach the apparent lack of consistent and timely pickup of household garbage.

“It’s difficult to get attention about the garbage problem sometimes,” said Etagegn Lalo, a 40-year-old Addis Abeba resident. “We have had no service for a long time.”

Etagegn was standing in front of her house just off Sierra Leone street, where she lives with her two children. In her neighbourhood, she said, the garbage collection problem is beginning to reach extreme levels.

“Sometimes cars come to collect garbage, so we just put it out where they can see it by the road,” she said “Some people have even been forced to dispose of their garbage in rivers.”

Traditionally, independent garbage collection services are set up and registered under wereda administrations. Each collection service is made up of about 10 people and serves a certain area. Using handcarts, they collect garbage from households and businesses and deposit them in dumpsters, where it is collected and taken to a landfill.

Nowadays, the usual sanitation system does not seem to be sufficient. While garbage disposal issues are not a new phenomenon for Addis Abeba, there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of garbage dumpsters that are visible in residential areas. Garbage removal services, without receptacles to store waste, have to leave piles of garbage next to city streets to await collection.

“It’s so hard to get timely sanitation services,” said Abebech Wolde, who lives near Piassa. “It’s frustrating. It definitely affects our quality of life.”

However, the delays are part of the rollout of a new system that will make garbage disposal more efficient, according to city officials. Instead of relying on garbage being transported from households and businesses, to dumpsters, and then to landfills, now compactor trucks will be deployed to collect garbage daily and take it straight to the landfill.

“It would be one thing if the garbage collectors came on time. But even when they come, they leave it on the street,” Abebech added.

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