5.1 Introduction
This chapter discusses and interprets the findings of the study. The research data as presented in Chapter Four is organized according to the research objectives and research themes. Wherever the word recycling is used, it means the process of converting re-used materials to produce new raw materials for purposes of producing new products for selling.
5.2 Industry actors and their roles, Challenges, Motives and Extent of Involvement in Solid Waste Recycling in Namibia
This section presents the findings in the following four thematic areas industry actors and their roles, company challenges, company motives and company extent of Involvement.
5.2.1 Industry players and their roles
Like any other industry in the country, actors in the industry were varied as shown in figure 4.1 in Chapter 4. The actors in the industry included government ministries, non-profit organizations, business world, recycling companies (large and small scale), manufacturing industries and waste pickers. Their involvement was as a result of the nature of their business, being collecting, processing, manufacturing, packaging, or promoting recycling in Namibia.
All business activities in Namibia are controlled by Government through particular Ministries’ policies and regulations. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT), Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD), Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Resources (MAFWR) were considered to be governing directly the activities of the recycling industry. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) is involved in the governance of all business activities in the country through policies and legislation. Waste management activities and operation licensing are overseen by the Directorate of Regional and Local Government, Traditional Authority Coordination within the Ministry of Regional, Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD). Environmental management is the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET).
In addition to formal companies, waste pickers (informal sector) were also part of the recycling system. Even if the position of some companies was not very clear regarding the position of the informal sector, the researcher established that they were part of the recycling industry. Companies A, F, I N and O reported receiving recyclables from informal waste pickers. At company E, one of the big scrap metal recycling company in Windhoek, waste pickers could be seen trickling in and out with an assortment of materials. The operations manager confirmed that they always brought in their recyclable merchandise. This scenario of waste pickers in Namibia was found to be quite similar to what happens in other developing countries. Croset, (2014) pointed that these are marginalized as well as poor people trying to eke a living through scavenging. In South Africa, waste pickers are part of the recycling value chain system as well (Muzenda, 2013; Mosi, 2011; Mamphitta, 2009).
Recycling activities in Namibia were concentrated in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Keetmanshoop, and the northern towns of Oshakati, Ondangwa where Namibia’s largest population or major industries are found. High concentration of companies is found particularly in the Capital City of Windhoek. This is not peculiar, according to Least Cost Location theory by Weber which takes a look at industrial location. According to Weber, industries tend to agglomerate (cluster) in certain areas in order to take advantage of the pool factors present as stated by Malmberg (1996). This allows the industries the opportunity to better maximize its profits. Industrial agglomeration refers to clustering of industries in an area. Weber stressed that agglomeration saves transport costs by proximity to input suppliers or final consumers; it allows for labour market pooling and facilitates intellectual spillovers. In this case, urban areas stand more chances for industries to benefit a number of things e.g. labour, raw material availability, transport and networking. However, efforts were being made to spread recycling all over the country e.g. in resort centres through the efforts of companies A, L and M in conjunction with a government entity responsible for wild life and resorts. At Sossusvlei Area, one of the premier tourism spots in Namibia, waste separation was going on, taking predominantly glass, tin cans and sometimes plastic back to Windhoek. Due to health as well as safety and security aspects, land owners in some of these areas expressed concern about the idea of having recycling centres close to their land. In urban centers recycling efforts were being facilitated through the establishment of collection depots and buy-back centers.
Years of existence of companies varied from four to ninety five years although most of the companies were involved in recycling for less than twenty years. Number of workers also varied from three to over five hundred. Male participants, who contributed to the research, dominated the industry, and according to two companies E and J participants they felt the industry was most suited to males due to the nature of the tasks which are too strenuous for females.
The outcome of the investigation of the industry was therefore primarily based on findings from the formal sector in Windhoek as presented in section 4.2.1 in Chapter Four. It emerged during the study that both formal and informal sectors were involved in recovery and recycling activities in Namibia. However, the formal sector had become deeply involved in the activities of the industry through the involvement of private owned companies, a situation similar to that highlighted by Muzenda (2013) in South Africa. Manufacturing industries in South Africa were found to be driving the recycling initiatives in the country with new recycling centers developing in major cities.
5.2.2 Challenges in the industry
The research question; “What challenges are you experiencing in this industry?” was investigated. The industry was faced with challenges as shown in Table 4.3 chapter 4. Ten participants reported challenges encountered. In Walvis Bay, company A manager highlighted that it was quite difficult convincing every household resident to take recycling seriously. It emerged, the older population had attitude problems as they were said to resist on the grounds that they were paying rates and not their duty to separate recyclable for recycle. Those in the twenties to thirties age group were found quite embracing of the idea. In Windhoek, low levels of public participation was too highlighted particularly in low income areas, to the extent that a project to promote recycling that was underway during the time of study had to be abandoned. This phenomenon is not peculiar to Namibia alone as some researches done elsewhere reported the same findings. In South Africa, Kotze (2015) a study on perceptions and attitudes found out that participation in recycling by women residents was poor due to ignorance and lack of knowledge to implement effective recycling practices. In Malaysia, Omran (2008) found out that household participation in recycling was low due to attitude problem. Participation in recycling of household waste was a function of level of awareness and understanding, level of education and availability of recycling facilities. These factors were considered important as they help to remove barriers preventing households from recycling. In Namibia, there was need to raise more awareness about the benefits of recycling, so as to bring everyone on board. Magen (2010) studied waste management and recycling in Namibia and found out that recycling levels in Keetmanshoop and Ondangwa were still low partly due to lack of awareness and education.
Shortage and exorbitant prices of transport also was another challenge that affected the industry. There was agreement across companies that it was very expensive to transport materials especially from sources in the northern part of Namibia to outside markets like South Africa. Only perceived high value recyclables like metals were lucrative at times owing to fluctuating fuel and commodity prices which affected the viability of transportation costs. All companies agreed that the average price for one trip to South Africa, which was in the order of between $10 000 to $12 000 Namibian dollars was quite costly. Availability of transport was considered a big challenge as smaller companies did not have transport of their own. ‘This is all I have a small pickup truck. I have to hire transport but it’s very expensive’ company J respondent said this while emphasizing the transport difficulties they encountered.The issue of transport was greatly affecting operations of the industry in many ways. A lot of recyclables were not being collected from other parts of the country due to transport costs coupled with lack of labour for uploading and off loading materials. The findings of this study are consistent with the findings of the study done by Croset (2014) in Namibia who concluded that the long transportation distances made it expensive to move recyclables from different areas of the country. Jacobsen et al., (2014) also agreed with Croset (2014)’s findings that transport problems were hampering recycling efforts in Namibia. As a result of this, participants agreed also that a lot of recyclables were not being collected around the country due to transport issues. Long–distance transporters experienced difficulties in accessing collection sites (e.g. dumpsites) where a lot of recyclables were assembled.
Labour issues also stood out as some of the challenges of major concern, Low skilled staff, lack of commitment and high turnover of skilled staff were raised concerns. In Keetmanshoop, company N explained that workers lacked commitment thereby affecting company productivity. On many days, greater number of the workers was reported absent. On the day of interview, only three out of a total of the seventeen workers had reported for duty. To make it worse, vandalism of industry equipment was also reported a situation which was found affecting work progress.
In the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay weather conditions also affected operations of the industry. Buildings and machinery needed constant repair attention due to wearing by corrosion. In Walvis Bay, the manager of company A expressed that this was an issue of concern as the operating space was limited leaving some equipment lying exposed to weather elements. It was his hope that the discussions on land allocation with the council authorities would bear fruit full and so would be able to construct bigger premises which could accommodate all things in doors.
Whilst the industry was reported to have potential for growth, the issue of low recyclable volumes was reported as a concern. The volumes that were being collected could not sustain the industry. ‘It is not profitable with the volumes that we collect’ said company A, N and K officials. Similar challenges affecting recycling were found out in different studies carried out in other African countries (Carbon Africa, 2014; Senzige et al., 2012; Fadlalla, 2010; Bolaane, 2004). A study on waste management in Mozambique found out that the low levels of recycling were attributed to factors such as financial constraints, low levels of participation and lack of knowledge (Carbon Africa, 2014).
It therefore shows that the industry in Africa is still bedeviled with challenges. Owing to a whole lot of challenges the industry faced, it explains why the recycling initiatives were concentrated in Windhoek Swakopmund/Walvis bay (coast) and in Ondanwgwa/Oshakati in the north.