Senegal’s Waste Management: The Privat Sector Is Wanted

“Senegal suffers from a chronic deficit of access to solid waste management services”, the World Bank wrote in 2017. Five years ago, the country produced over 2.4 million tons of solid waste per year, out of which 1.08 million tons stayed uncollected. What has been done or must be rendered to assure nationwide collection and sanitary treatment of waste?

A paper of the European “Integrated Waste Management in West Africa” project from 2012 explained that municipal solid waste generated in Senegal was composed of two-third valuable material like metals, glass bottles, organics, and plastics and one-third of toxic substances like pharmaceutical products, oils, chemicals, car batteries and dry batteries from electronic devices. In Dakar, the country’s capital, about 44 percent of waste generated was organic waste, coming from groundnut shells, fish waste, poultry excrement, industrial waste, fertilizers, and garden waste. Additionally, around 18 percent of waste generated or about 9,500 tons in Dakar were composed of plastics including 14 percent consisting plastic bags and four percent bottles and old plastic shoes, all descending from some 40 plastic processing industries. Most times, it was mixed with household waste. The rest contained 13 percent paper and cardboard, four percent metals, and 21 percent of all other waste types.

80 percent to landfill
It must not be forgotten that, even in 2019, the waste collection was uneven across regions. In Dakar, an average waste collection rate of 84 percent could be reached. In contrast, the rate at 33 percent ranged much lower in regional capitals and only at 22 percent in secondary municipalities. And, as the World Bank asserted, the existing collection services are “irregular and unreliable”, delivering waste management “with rudimentary and spotty services” and paving the way for open dumping and burning in Senegal’s secondary municipalities. In the solid waste management city profile, which the Climate and Clean Air Coalition published in about 2017, one could read that “80 percent of collected waste is transported to the landfill but not disposed of” and that “there is not yet in Dakar selective collection at the source of different waste streams”.

Meanwhile, at least the waste composition seems to have changed. A country report published by the European Commission in November 2020 shows an average waste by weight generation of twelve percent organic waste, eleven percent plastics, six percent paper and cardboard, six percent of partly sanitary textiles, two percent of glass, metal, and wood each, but also 47 percent of “fine elements” like sand and stone – the latter possibly damaging collection equipment like collectors. In this regard, the Commission also sums up that “landfill remains the main means of disposal of collected waste” as well as biomedical and industrial – including hazardous – waste. The landfills are characterized as unenclosed, missing adequate systems for treating gases and liquids like leachates. “Incineration, composting, and other biological treatments are the exception.”

No sanitary landfill in operation
The World Bank described the situation with the words: “There is no fully functional sanitary landfill in operation in Senegal.” Several years ago, the construction of three landfills was initiated, but the Saint-Louis facility was not properly operated and turned into a dumpsite. Moreover, the Thies landfill lacked resources and was never completed, and the Sindhia plant could not meet public consent. In 2019, news spread about constructing three new landfills in Tivaouane, Touba and Kaolack supported with 35 million US-Dollar by the Islamic Development Bank. It was also reported that the World Bank was to lend money to the Senegalese government to improve providing solid waste management services. The aim was particularly to gradually close down the Mbeubeuss site in Dakar and to establish another treatment and disposal site as a public-private partnership instead.

An emerging recycling industry
Despite these conditions, a recycling industry has developed. While in 2006, enterprises like Tremex, Recuver, Refemetal, and Cosem SA still treated several 1,000 tons of metal per month and mostly exported it to Spain. However, Someta, the Société Métallurgique d’Afrique, is now the biggest player. It started at a time when Senegal’s president Macky Sall’s decree on an export ban of scrap and ferrous by-products was suspended and a Chinese and some other finance partner supported the investment of 400 billion CFA-Francs (690 million US-Dollar) for a facility to absorb iron and other metal scraps in Western Africa. Sinapro is a scrap iron and steel company in Dakar, collecting iron, non-iron, and computer scrap for sale. The mechanics company Selmeg recycles up to six tons of aluminium a year, according to the German Company for International Cooperation (GIZ). The GIZ summed up this sector in 2021: “The metal recycling market is well-established.”

Concerning non-ferrous recycling, Gravita Senegal is a leading West African manufacturing, recycling and processing unit for lead metal, oxides, and products. The company manufactures remelted lead and polypropylene chips. Various sources include scrap from batteries, battery plates, and concentrates. According to the enterprise, Gravita manufactures lead metal by smelting and recycling followed by refining, alloying, and manufacturing lead oxide.

About 40 plastic processing companies
ProPlast is an integrated plastic recycling company specializing in the recycling of plastic waste. As a leader in Senegal, ProPlast is collecting plastic waste, transforming it, and selling recycled plastic. According to the Afrik 21 online magazine, the company will purchase more than 100 tons of plastic waste each month through about twenty “Récuplast” kiosks. Another source indicates that the units at Thiès and Kaolack specialize in the recovery, milling, and granulation of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with an estimated combined processing capacity of up to 20 tons per year. Another plastic collecting, processing, and producing company is Transtech Industries, established in 1993. The enterprise is specialized in the production of furniture partly made from recycled plastics. “There are about 40 plastic processing companies in Senegal, concentrated in the Dakar region”, the EU Commission gave account in 2020. According to GIZ, the Senegalese plants currently collect and purchase around 8,000 tons of plastic a year, although the actual demand for recycled plastic exceeds 15,000 tons. “This market is showing strong growth and solid development potential.”

In 2021 the only paper and cardboard processing facility was Pronat. The Pronat plant consumed two tons of paper a day, covering less than one percent of national recyclable waste and less than the potential demand of seven percent. Besides that, “recycling used paper to egg trays in Senegal is feasible and profitable”, says the Beston company, shipped an automatic egg tray machine from Seychelles to Senegal, and started producing 3,500 to 4,500 pieces of paper egg trays per hour in 2021. But now, the Klingele Paper & Packaging Group – with financial support from the German Development Finance Institution – wants to start a new sheet plant with two production lines in summer 2022. There, corrugated cardboard sheets from Spain will be processed into finished packaging to be predominantly used in agriculture, the fish industry, and the wider food sector.

Attractive prospects for investors
“E-waste was not yet locally regulated”, the EU Commission wrote in 2020. However, the first authorized recycling center for e-waste working according to international regulations in Senegal was SetTIC, founded in 2013. Today, the company is recycling up to 70 tons of e-waste a year and wants to expand into LED lights and ink cartridges. SetTic benefits from the USAID and I&P Acceleration in the Sahel programs with a funding of 35.5 million FCFA (62,000 US-Dollar). SonaTel promotes recovery and recycling throughout the supply chain. But despite government efforts and the setup of a dismantling center, the EU Commission realized that “e-waste was not yet locally regulated”. And the electronic company Gainde 2000 identifies a “non-existence of an organized WEEE management network in Senegal”. It is questionable, whether “e-waste turns out to be an emerging market” – as the GIZ suggests – or not.

According to GIZ, industrial waste is treated by Sococim, whose cement plant processes tires, rags, solvents, and, on occasion, paper and plastics. And the Korean Green Growth Trust Fund, in cooperation with the World Bank Group, published a study in 2017 on “Use of alternative fuels in the cement sector in Senegal: opportunities, challenges, and solutions”. But still, there are very few facilities in Senegal authorized to treat ordinary industrial waste, healthcare waste, and hazardous industrial waste. So “this market offers attractive prospects for investors interested in setting up a sorting and treatment system for special waste”, the GIZ suggested.

Time to turn waste into energy
That does not apply to the organic waste reuse and recycling market, which is judged as “embryonic”. There are some projections in Senegal to turn biomass to energy, for example, the bio-coal Typha valorization project or the Pilot Biogas Initiative in Ferlo, involving the development of 40 bio-digesters with animal waste being used as the feedstock. In an article on “Improvement of the Waste Management System in Senegal” published in 2018, the authors propose that “energy can be generated from animal waste, for example, at the Mbeubeuss dumpsite. The biogas heat can produce heat for onsite use and deliver excess electricity to the local grid”. The same could be valid for rice, maize, and coconut residues produced in small farms and collected and processed centralized. In October 2019, “the Africa report” recommended online: “Now is the time to turn Africa’s waste into energy.” In February 2020, the government showed interest in a waste-to-energy plant in the Kaolack region, more precisely in Sibassor. According to Senegal’s Minister of Urbanism, Housing and Hygiene, the project is “zero-waste”-bound and targets to ensure that the country achieves a zero-waste status.

Ambitions of “zero waste”
The EU Commission is convinced, that “Senegal has ambitions of ’zero waste’ with many initiatives and attempts at enforcement to make this a reality”. But it is also sure that “very little is implemented due to infrastructure and funding challenges”. For that matter, waste management in Dakar and Senegal as a whole is fragmented and complex: “There is open discharge, no biological treatment, no formal recycling, no waste disposal infrastructure. There are collectors on waste sites who sell recovered materials (plastics, cardboard, metals, glasses, etc.) to the private sector. All this is managed and executed informal.”

Until 2015, the responsibilities for waste management in Senegal were spread over several ministries; this made coordination difficult. According to the report “What a Waste 2”, published by the World Bank Group, this policy created financial gaps and led to payment delays that discouraged private entities. The national government reacted by launching a National Waste Management Program in 2014, installing a Waste Coordination Unit in 2015 that structured a realistic relationship by devolving responsibilities to the private sector and adopting an Integrated and Sustainable Solid Waste Management Strategy in 2015, together with the creation of seven so-called Waste Management Agglomerations. The aftermath: “The waste management sector recovers 15 percent of operational costs, with the remaining 85 percent coming from the central government budget”, the Waste 2-report indicated.

Supported policy
The investment climate improved, not at least because of a new private-public partnership law in 2015, including the following consequences:

  • Already in January 2014, the Senegalese government – with the XOF 17.5 billion- (EUR 26.67 million-) support of the Islamic Development Bank – launched the Sustainable Solid Urban Waste Management Project (PGDSU) to improve solid waste management systems in the Dakar region and the communities of Tivaouane, Kaolack and Touba Mosquée.
  • Among others, the Training and Awareness Project on Sorting and Collection of Household Waste was supported by the Metropolitan Agency for Household Waste (Syctom) in Île-de-France and the European Union.
  • In November 2020, in Tivaouane, an anti-waste communication campaign started as the first stage of the local Plastic Waste, Waste Water and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Management Project, supported with three million Euros by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
  • In February 2021, the Senegalese Minister of the Economy, Planning, and Cooperation, as well as President and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, formally agreed to the new financial support of CFAF 75 billion (114.5 million Euro) for improving the drinking water supply and promoting integrated solid waste management.
  • And in May 2021, the Project for the Promotion of Integrated Management and Economics of Solid Waste (PROMOGED) started. The funding of 295 million US-Dollar will come from the World Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Money and efforts are needed
As can be seen, these activities would not have been realized without external financial support. Or as the EU Commission explained it: “Senegal and Africa in general, are highly dependent on external markets and already suffer from a lack of private sector investment.” In 2017 and 2019 the World Bank defined it more precisely: “Investments and operation and maintenance are critically underfunded, and the funding available to the sector is limited.” As proof, the bank charged up necessary expenses against actual revenues: The annual budget needed for Senegalese waste management is estimated at around FCFA 45 billion (US-Dollar 75 million), but the revenues in 2016 amounted to a budget of FCFA 24 billion (US-Dollar 40 million) consisting of the SWM tax (FCFA 5 billion), transfer from central government (FCFA 13 billion) and cross-subsidies (FCFA 6 billion). The balance: “This represents a shortfall of FCFA 21 billion.” Furthermore, the bank criticized the lack of resources in secondary municipalities, because only 23 percent of the central government transfer was spent for them. Money and efforts are needed to install a functioning waste management infrastructure in Senegal. The GIZ has formulated the needs: Amongst others, 400,000 regulation bins for storage, about 1,550 waste handling and collection vehicles, then 200 standardized waste collection points, 15 recycling centers, 15 waste sorting and transfer facilities, ten controlled dumps, as well as eight treatment and disposal facilities – totaled: XOF 250 billion (381.12 million Euro) –, and finally a program for the more than 40 uncontrolled dumpsites – worth: XOF 50 billion (76.22 million Euro).

So, it must be agreed with the World Bank that “there is a need to unleash the potential for private-sector dynamism, investments, and professional SWM”. Likewise, the GIZ is certain that Senegal’s plastic processors require significant investment, that waste streams like rubble, tires, green waste, bulky waste, old vehicles, or WEEE offer interesting investment opportunities, and that ordinary industrial waste, health-care waste, and hazardous industrial waste offers attractive prospects for investors. And the “What a Waste 2”-report argues: “While Senegal has so far improved waste services without a traditional public-private partnership, the structural transformation in governance has created a more stable, attractive waste management sector for investors and waste management companies.”

(Published in GLOBAL RECYCLING Magazine 1/2022, Page 26, Photo: Comugnero Silvana /