Ethiopia , Recycling Plastic

Alessandro Penso

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC), in Ethiopia, plastics constitute 9-14 percent of cities’ waste, and more than 50 percent is not disposed of correctly.

Hawassa is one of the most important cities of Ethiopia. Famous for its lake, it is one of the cities most affected by plastic pollution, which is putting the biodiversity of the lake at risk.

For this reason, in 2018, the government began to support recycling initiatives and measures. One example is “Hawassa Wubet” which was founded with the help of international organizations. Hawassa Wubet buys used plastic bottles, for 3 birr per kilogram, or about 9 euro cents. The numbers quickly became impressive: Now, about 40,000 bottles are collected a day, thanks also to informal collectors, mostly minors, who go to dumps in the mornings or around the city in search of plastic bottles to resell.

Hawassa Wubet removes labels and caps, presses the bottles and turns them into large plastic bales. These sell for about 7 birr (22 euro cents) to Addis Ababa company Coba Impact, which produces PET preforms for major Ethiopian brands but also for companies such as Coca-Cola.
Recent years have seen an huge increase in the use of PET bottles, rising from 1.2 million in 2001 to 21 million in 2010. This has led Coba Impact to invest in the recycling of plastic, transforming old bottles into PET flakes that are resold in Europe where they will be turned back into bottles.
Although the recycling has brought immediate benefits to the city of Hawassa and its lake, there is still much concern. Coca Cola, which puts about 60 million bottles (mostly glass) on the Ethiopian market, plans to convert all its production to plastic by 2022, as well as increase production.

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