According to Worldmapper (2006), Madagascar is the country that produces the least amount of municipal wastes among all of the nations around the world; generating only 9 kilograms per person per year. This is a significantly low amount compared to that of the United States, which produces 715 kilograms per person per year. However, being one of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar is not a country without the waste problems despite its low amount of waste production.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests of Madagascar defines waste as all deposits resulting from production process, transformation or use, or any abandoned substance, material or item, either because of its small economic value or its small quantity to justify an investment. In other words, waste is an item or products that cannot be implemented for different uses (Ministre de l’Environnement, des Eaux & Forêts et du Tourisme).
The biggest portion of waste in Madagascar is municipal waste. According to UNICEF (2011), 419,000 tons of municipal waste is collected each year, which is less than half the amount of all waste that is produced. 96.7% of the municipal waste is dumped in landfills and 3.5% is composted, while no incineration or recycling are reported. Another important type of waste in the region is chemical waste – 46,000 tons of hazardous chemical wastes are generated per year (Newman (U Michigan) and SASI Group (U Sheffield)).
Currently, there are a number of drawbacks that exist in the implementation of waste treatment and subsequent legislations of Madagascar. Only 30% of produced wastes are managed in disposal sites. Thus, the rest of the untreated waste causes serious sanitary problems in this region. Most of the waste treatment companies in Madagascar are multi-national or international companies, which cannot focus on Madagascar specifically. Chemical waste treatment is also a big problem because there are no disposal or recovery facilities for chemical wastes available in the country. There is also no data for hazardous waste treatment reported so far. Besides, Madagascar has a noticeable lack of regulative legislation controlling the export and import of waste; any restrictions have yet to be implemented (United Nations Statistics Division).
Despite this, Madagascar is actually trying hard to solve these problems. Madagascar is currently in the preparatory process of executing amendments to the Basel Convention, an international treaty for the reduction of the movements of hazardous waste among countries and the prevention of transferring hazardous waste from developed to developing countries. Also, national laws to reduce hazardous waste are currently being prepared and elaborated (Ministre de l’Environnement, des Eaux & Forêts et du Tourisme).
Another huge effort of Madagascar’s government surrounding it’s waste problem is their push towards composting. Composting is a method that decomposes or recycles organic matters into fertilizer and soil amendment. The government is promoting the transformation of municipal organic waste into farming composts. Composting is both environmentally and economically beneficial because it is a key to organic farming. It reduces chemical fertilizers and improves the sanitary systems in the country by decreasing the risk of plague or cholera. A lot of problems that are generated by poorly-controlled landfill will also decrease by composting. Moreover, it creates job opportunities to unskilled workers with better working conditions and health care. It helps developing market gardening in the country as well. Considered suitable as a women’s job, development of market gardening will contribute to solving gender inequalities in Madagascar by some means. On the other hand, there is a limitation to composting; no pretreatment process of organic wastes is done, which gives a huge possibility that heavy metals and organic pollutants may exist in composts. In fact, as stated above, only 3.5% of municipal waste is managed by composting, thus efforts to increase composting of the waste should be encouraged (Vaudry).
Despite the efforts of Madagascar’s government to deal with the waste problems of the country, there are several deficits in which they must improve. Madagascar should be encouraged to enforce stricter regulations in terms of waste treatment. Also, national facilities or governmental institution should be established as soon as possible in order to focus on the regional waste problems.
Below are some info graphics highlighting some of the information above based on relevant waste data.