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How Letting Fruits Rot Can Make Money And Help the Global Climate

A compost facility in Dar es Salaam turns organic waste into fertiliser and animal feed. More importantly, it helps reduce climate emissions.

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Dar es Salaam. The facility is located on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam in the Kinondoni district. A dirt road leads to the site, about ten kilometres from the nearest bus stop. The compound seems out of place in such a rural setting. It is a concrete-covered area with a large, open structure. Long, black piles cover the ground.

What could they be? Visitors can tell by the smell: the rotten whiff of organic material decomposing in the sun. It is a compost. It is an unpleasant scent. But the idea behind it smells sweet: the recycling facility demonstrates how waste can be turned into something useful.

The Mabwepande Compost Site has been fully operational since last year and accomplishes two things simultaneously. It helps avoid methane emissions, the greenhouse gas that heats the global climate. In addition, it produces gardening soil and insects, which are turned into animal feed and soil. 

The site is owned by the Kinondoni Municipality and run by the local company, The Recycler. The city of Hamburg in Germany provided most of the financing and received carbon credits, so-called Verified Emission Reductions (VERs), in exchange.

The concept behind the compost site is simple: the operators collect organic waste- banana peels, orange rinds, and other remains of fruit and vegetables- at several markets and hotels in the Dar es Salaam area. 

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“Our truck brings two to three loads to the site daily, which amounts to roughly 30 to 40 tons,” site director Jimson Mkenda explains.

Waste turned into soil

The fresh material then goes through a process with several stages. First, the employees sort out plastic and other non-organic garbage. Then, the waste is piled up and left to rot. The workers regularly turn it and water it so the air can circulate and remain moist. 

All of this ensures that the decomposition happens in a climate-friendly manner. The goal is to minimise methane emissions. After about ten weeks, the process is completed: the waste has turned into soil. It is now a useful product that the facility sells to gardeners and farmers.

The compost site also cultivates Black Soldier Flies. It is an insect full of protein – and therefore ideally suited as animal feed. The site operator, The Recycler and a partner, the Tanzanian company Biobuu, make dog food and fish feed out of it. 

The insect powder is a more sustainable and economical alternative to the meat normally fed to dogs and the soja that is often used in fish farming.

Jimson Mkenda showing some of the soil product after processing

Saving the climate

The facility is almost profitable according to the site operator, The Recycler, even though it currently does not charge the markets for collecting their organic waste. 

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“I love my work because it benefits me and helps the environment and the community,” Mkenda, a 28-year-old environmental engineer, told The Chanzo during an interview. “It is more than a job for me. Helping to save the climate is my passion.”

However, he and his team only manage to process a fraction of the hundreds of tons of organic waste generated by the markets of Dar es Salaam each day. Therefore, most waste still ends up at the vast Pugu waste site. 

This means that it contributes to accelerating climate change. Then, the organic waste gets mixed with the regular garbage at the dumpsite. 

There is a lack of air, and in such an environment, the organic material can only break down very slowly, which, unfortunately, is a process that generates a lot of methane. 

The Mabwepande Compost Site is an essential step in designing Dar es Salaam’s waste management to be more sustainable. 

A second step is soon to follow: The Recycler will construct a second Compost Recycling Site in Mkuranga, south of Dar es Salaam. 

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“It will be fully operational by next summer,” The Recycler director Matthew Haden explained to The Chanzo. Turning rotten foodstuff into rich soil clearly proves to be a fertile idea.
Marc Bürgi reports for The Chanzo from Dar es Salaam. He is available at burgimar@gmx.ch.

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