November 29th, 2013

Waste management in Morocco

by Catherine Hansen

 

Solid waste management is one of the major environmental problems threatening the Mediterranean Kingdom of Morocco. More than five million tons of solid waste is generated across the country every year, with the annual waste generation growth rate touching 3%. Proper disposal of municipal solid waste in Morocco is hampered by major deficiencies such as lack of proper infrastructure and suitable funding in areas outside of major cities.

According to a European Commission report,  before a recent reform in 2008 “only 70% of urban MSW was collected and less than 10% of collected waste was being disposed of in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. There were 300 uncontrolled dumpsites, and about 3,500 waste-pickers, of which 10% were children, were living on and around these open dumpsites.”

 

Rubbish in, dioxins out

It is not uncommon to see trash burning as a means of solid waste disposal in Morocco, as this provides a cheap option in the absence of proper infrastructure. However, this treatment of the municipal waste stream is reckless and unsustainable, and has major effects on both public health and the environment.  Unfortunately, the detrimental health effects of burning trash are either unknown or grossly under-estimated by the vast majority of the Moroccan population.

The burning of trash is a particular health concern because of the substantial amounts of the highly toxic environmental pollutants known as dioxins it produces. Most of the dioxins that are released into the air during the burning process end up on the leaves of green vegetation. These plants are then eaten by dairy animals such as cows, sheep and goats, which results in the dioxins being stored and accumulating in the animals’ fatty tissues. Once this occurs dioxins are difficult to avoid, with people being exposed to them primarily though eating meat and other dairy products, especially those high in fat.

Furthermore, this type of open burning also causes particle pollution.  Particle pollution refers to microscopic particles that end up in the lungs and can cause a number of human health problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. Unfortunately, children and the elderly who are exposed to dioxins are among the highest at risk for contracting these illnesses.  Other harmful carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are also produced by outdoor burning.  These pollutants have been known to cause numerous health problems, ranging from skin irritation to liver and kidney damage, and in some cases have been linked to cancer.

The ash that is produced when trash is burned often contains mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Garden vegetables can absorb and accumulate these metals, which can make them dangerous to eat. Children playing in the yard or garden can incidentally ingest soil containing these metals. Also, rain can wash the ash into groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water and food.” This is not to mention the population of garbage-pickers who are putting their health on the line while sorting municipal wastes.

 

morocco-landfilll

Of all the landfills in all the world, you had to graze your cattle on mine. Image courtesy of Ecomena.org

 

 

Casa-plan-ca

The good news about the future of Morocco’s MSW management is that the World Bank has allocated $271.3 million to the Moroccan government for the development of a municipal waste management plan. The plan’s details include restoring around 80 landfill sites, improving trash pickup services, and increasing recycling by 20%, all by the year 2020. While this is expected to do wonders for the urban population, one can only hope that the benefits of this reform will trickle down to the 43% of the Moroccan population living in rural areas.

Even with Morocco’s movement towards a safer and more environmentally friendly MSW management system there is still a large section of the  population, including children and the elderly, whom this reform will overlook.  Until more is done, these people will continue to be exposed to hazardous living conditions because of a lack of suitable funding, infrastructure and education.

 

Catherine Hansen

 

Catherine Hansen

 

We are grateful to EcoMENA for the opportunity to reproduce this article, which first appeared here. EcoMENA is a website focused on raising awareness of renewable energy, sustainability, waste management, environment protection, energy efficiency and resource conservation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

 

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6 Comments on "Waste management in Morocco"

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Sarah
Guest

Interesting read and great information.

A. RAZZAK
Guest
Dear all, this is the upcoming project which will resolve and get rid of 100% of the Waste issue in the kingdom of Morocco, create thousands of jobs and generate 34 industrial products and mainly clean and renewable energy (electricity) without causing harm to the environment. GDTC pour les Energies Renouvelables au Royaume du Maroc Will be a very large multi-phased project consisting of constructing a large Waste-To-Energy Resource Recovery facility, and two underground new landfills, The project is unique and unlike any other. It is focused primarily on environmental protection and sustainable development, and will pioneer the development of… Read more »
Chris Eden
Guest

This indeed sounds like a unique and adventurous project that, if it works, has the potential to solve all the world’s problems with regard to waste!

As someone with an active interest in renewable energy power generation, specifically from landfill gas (I would argue this medium is a renewable energy until the cows come home), I will be very interested to hear how the project progresses. Is there any further information about it?

Thanks for your contribution Catherine. It’s good to see that someone is still thinking possitively about climate change!

Dennis Salva
Guest

This is quite an interesting topic the waste disposal both under the surface and above.The management for implementing the waste disposal are burned in proper form.

Fernando Reis
Guest

I am interested in developing solutions with potential local partners for waste recovery such as transforming unsorted plastics into re-crude and upgraded using FCC methods. As well, food waste often makes up a large concentration of garbage which can be turned into CNG or used for power generation. And there are also plenty of auto tires either dumped illegally or disposed of in landfill by local consumers that can be turned into oils and aggregates.

Nvirimbi Charles Kalule
Guest
Nvirimbi Charles Kalule

I would suggest that first secure government position to have enforceable policies and laws in place. secondly,your government should wave off taxes for investors in Waste Management, this will attract better methods and innovations.
I prefer managing waste at source with value additional, instead of Generators to pay the Collector pays for already sorted waste and sells direct to recyclers.

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