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Solid waste characterization in Ketao, a rural town in Togo, West Africa

Article · May 2012

DOI: 10.1177/0734242X12442741 · Source: PubMed


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3 authors:

Vincent Maklawe Edjabou Jacob Møller

Technical University of Denmark Technical University of Denmark


Thomas H Christensen
Technical University of Denmark


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WMR30710.1177/0734242X12442741Edjabou et al.Waste Management & Research

Short Report

Waste Management & Research

Solid waste characterization in Kétao,

30(7) 745­–749
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
a rural town in Togo, West Africa sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0734242X12442741

Maklawe Essonanawe Edjabou, Jacob Møller and

Thomas H Christensen

In Africa the majority of solid waste data is for big cities. Small and rural towns are generally neglected and waste data from
these areas are often unavailable, which makes planning a proper solid waste management difficult. This paper presents the
results from two waste characterization projects conducted in Kétao, a rural town in Togo during the rainy season and the dry
season in 2010. The seasonal variation has a significant impact on the waste stream. The household waste generation rate was
estimated at 0.22 kg person−1 day−1 in the dry season and 0.42 in the rainy season. Likewise, the waste moisture content was 4%
in the dry season while it was 33–63% in the rainy season. The waste consisted mainly of soil and dirt characterized as ‘other’
(41%), vegetables and putrescibles (38%) and plastic (11%). In addition to these fractions, considerable amounts of material are
either recycled or reused locally and do not enter the waste stream. The study suggests that additional recycling is not feasible,
but further examination of the degradability of the organic fraction is needed in order to assess whether the residual waste should
be composed or landfilled.

Solid waste characterization, dry season, rainy season, waste management, rural town, Togo, West Africa

Introduction Materials and methods

Togo is a West African country with an estimated population of The study area
6.8 million in 2010. With a per capita income of US$ 437 in Kétao is a rural town in northern Togo with an estimated popula-
2009, Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world (The tion of 20 000. It is located about 400 km north-east of the capital
World Bank, 2010). The majority of the population lives in rural Lomé. A big market is held on Wednesdays and attracts around
Togo where no form of proper solid waste management is 50 000 people.
present. The climate is tropical semi-arid. The dry season, November
In the rural town of Kétao, degraded organic waste was for- to early April, is characterized by an extremely low humidity
merly collected by the farmers to use as a soil amendment, but caused by the Harmattan wind, while the rainy season, late April
due to the presence of plastic bags in the waste this is no longer to October, is the season for crop production.
the case. As a result, piles of waste obstruct the roads, hamper the
aesthetic appearance of the town and are a potential threat to pub-
lic health and the environment. Waste is often openly burned
Waste characterization
resulting in emissions of toxic fumes. Moreover, domestic ani- The waste characterization was conducted twice, in January and
mals have died by eating plastic bags, and children are often cut in July-August 2010 representing the dry season and the rainy
by sharp items when playing around the waste piles. season, respectively. Each waste characterization was conducted
Introduction of a proper waste management in Kétao could over an eleven-day period. This sampling period was relatively
reduce the impact of the solid waste on public health and envi-
Departmentof Environmental Engineering, Technical University of
ronment and improve the aesthetic appearance of the town
Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
(Christensen, 2011). Thus, the objective of this study was to pro-
vide data on type, quantity and composition of the solid waste for Corresponding author:
planning of a suitable waste management system in Kétao in Jacob Møller, Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical
University of Denmark, Miljoevej, Building 113, DK-2800 Kongens
Togo. The data presented could be of relevance for many rural Lyngby, Denmark
towns in western Africa. Email: jacm@env.dtu.dk
746 Waste Management & Research 30(7)

Table 1.  Number of households, institutions and commercial units included in the study.

Waste source Number of samples Number of persons per source

  Dry season Rainy season Dry season Rainy season

Households 48 48 433 342
Schools  2  0 819 –
Other institutions  2  2 – –
Shops  8  6 – –
Bars and restaurants  8  6 – –
Station  1  1 – –
Market  1  1 50 000 50 000

short. However, it allowed for two samplings of the market waste of soil, dust, dirt and small pieces of charcoal was categorized as
and likewise covered both rainy and dry days during the wet sea- ‘other’. Each material fraction was weighed after the sorting.
son. A number of houses, institutions, small businesses, the bus The moisture content of the waste was determined using two
station and the market were selected for the project (Table 1). different methods depending on the season. In the January dry
A total of 48 houses were selected. The 48 houses are located season, the waste was dried by spreading it on a tarpaulin in the
in the market neighbourhood. This area is characterized by a very sun for 4 to 5 h until constant weight. In the rainy season the
mixed composition of residents regarding income, religion and waste was dried in a microwave oven. A similar method has been
ethnicity. The selected houses were next to each other to prevent used for drying soils (Chung and Ho, 2006).
houses in-between using the waste bins. Further, the location of
the participants´ houses eased the waste collection and transport
to the sorting area. The institutions consisted of offices and
schools. However, the schools were only included in the study in The household waste generation rate was estimated at 0.22 kg
January due to summer school holiday in July–August. The small capita−1 day−1 in the dry season and 0.42 kg capita−1 day−1 in the
businesses comprised of shops, bars and restaurants. rainy season. The annual waste generation rate was calculated
Waste bins were handed out to the participants one day before based on the weight of wet waste taking into consideration the
the waste collection started and the waste was collected every influence of the seasonal variation on the waste stream. The
second day by door-to-door collection. The waste was loaded results of the January study was assumed to be representative of
from the waste bin into a small bowl bag to be weighed and then the dry season (estimated to approximately 152 days year−1) and
transported in a handcart to the sorting area. The market waste the study in July–August was representative of the rainy season
was only collected on Thursday mornings by a group of 15 (estimated to approximately 213 days year−1). The annual waste
women hired to sweep the entire market place. generation rate (WGR) was calculated as follow:
The waste was sorted the same day as the collection took
place into nine material fractions as described in Table 2. The Annual WGR = ( WGR (in the dry season) × 152 +
waste was checked for magnetic metal using a magnet. Large WGR (in the rainy season) × 213) / 365 (1)
pieces of plastic and pieces of broken glass and twigs were
removed. Other large pieces of textile, cardboard, paper, batter- The yearly average household waste generation rate was 0.34 kg
ies, for example, were sorted out. The remaining waste consisting capita−1 day−1 (Table 3).

Table 2.  Material fractions in the waste stream in Kétao.

Waste fractions
Vegetables and putrescibles Leaves, small pieces of wood, fruits peelings, animal excrements, food leftovers, corn tidy
cobsa and husksa, peanut shellsa
Ash Ash from wood and charcoal
Paper and cardboard Old school notebooks, boxes, packaging
Textiles Worn clothes
Glass Broken glass, perfume and medicine glasses
Metal Milk and tomato tin cans, beers caps
Plastic Shopping plastics bags, milk juice and water packaging plastic bags
Batteries Batteries
Other Soil, dust and small pieces of leaves and wood
aWaste fractions found only in the rainy season
Edjabou et al. 747

Table 3.  Estimated waste generation rates in Kétao.

Waste source Dry season Rainy season Yearly average Unit

Households 0.22 0.42 0.34 kg person−1 day−1
Commercials 0.8 1 1 kg store−1 day−1
Other institutions 0.3 2 1 kg institution−1 day−1
Schools 2 0a 1.14 kg school−1 day−1
Stations 25 39 8 kg station−1 day−1
Market 545 989 804 kg market−1 week−1
Total waste amount ~2650 tonnes year−1
aNo school activities.

The total waste generated per year in Kétao was esti- where Xi is the percentage of waste fraction i, Xdi is the weight of
mated at 2646 tonnes. The households generate 93% of the waste fraction i in the dry season, Xwi is the weight of waste frac-
total waste, commerce about 5% and the market generates tion i in the wet season, Td is the weight of total waste sorted in
only 2%. the dry season and Tw is the weight of total sorted in the wet
The moisture content of the waste was estimated to 4% in the season.
dry season, which is extremely low in comparison with the esti- The waste (Figure 1) consisted predominantly of soil, dirt and
mated average moisture content during the wet season of 42%. In sand characterized as ‘other’ (41%) followed by vegetables and
the wet season the moisture content varied significantly among putrescibles (38%). The proportion of the plastic waste was 11%
the material fractions – between 33 and 63%. As a consequence and paper and cardboard contributed 7%. Various other fractions
of the large difference in moisture content between seasons the constituted the remaining 3%.
waste generation rate based on dry matter content was almost the Some waste fractions were not found in the waste stream. This
same in the two seasons. can be explained by the recycling and reuse of waste in the infor-
The annual waste composition, namely the percentage of each mal sector. For example, aluminium cans are recycled to produce
waste fraction, was calculated as: kitchenware. Iron materials and old rubber shoes are collected
and sold to small traders who subsequently sell them to retailers
X i = ( X di ×152 + X wi × 213) / (Td ×152 + Tw × 213)×100 (2) in Lomé. Moreover, the beer brewery (Brasserie du Benin) reuses

Figure 1.  Seasonal variation of waste composition in Kétao.

748 Waste Management & Research 30(7)

beer bottles. The deposit fee on these bottles is as high as the cost possible explanation can be a high content of soil and a high reu-
of the beer. Therefore, beer bottles are always returned to the tilization of food leftovers in Kétao as feed to livestock.
shops. Plastic bottles and unbroken glasses are reused as contain-
ers of juice, water, oil and other liquids sold in the local market. Implications for a future waste
Tyre inner tubes are transformed into small containers to fetch management system
The quantification of the solid waste in Kétao, Togo, showed a
fairly low waste generation on an annual basis, about 2650 tonnes
Discussion year−1 or approximately 0.34 kg capita−1 year−1. The low quantity
of waste and the low income level of this rural town suggest that
Waste generation rate and moisture a simple and robust waste management system must be
content developed.
The season affects the waste generation rate in Kétao signifi- The detailed waste characterization showed that ‘soil and dirt’
cantly. The increased weight of the waste in the rainy season can and ‘organic waste’ dominated the waste composition (80% of all
– besides the higher moisture content – be explained by the pres- the waste). Hardly any recyclable items were found in the waste.
ence of maize cobs and husks, peanut shells and vegetable stalks The quality of the plastics and paper in the waste stream was poor
in the waste stream. Similarly, the highest quantity of waste was and the quantity was not sufficient for setting up a profitable
generated in the rainy season in Oyo, Nigeria (Afon and Okewole, recycling scheme. The organic matter fraction is estimated to
2007). However, the average household waste generation rate 1000 tonnes annually, but a major part seems to be slowly degra-
estimated for Kétao at 0.34 kg capita−1 day−1 is in the lower end dable items such as corn cobs, husks and peanut shells, which are
of the estimated waste generation rates in other African cities not easily composted. So before suggesting any source separation
ranging from 0.33 to 0.62 kg capita−1 day−1 (Asase et al., 2009; of organic matter, which would be a major change of the tradi-
Kaseva and Moirana, 2010). Furthermore, if the soil and dirt con- tional habit of the population (Bernstein, 2004), the compostabil-
tent could be avoided, the waste generation rate would be even ity of the organic fractions should be assessed.
lower −0.18 kg capita−1 day−1. The relatively low waste genera- Introduction of proper waste bins in the households, which
tion rate in Kétao could be explained by the fact that Kétao is a would reduce the need for sweeping the floors and yards for
rural town with lower purchasing power than urban areas. Even waste, would likely reduce the soil content of the waste. However,
though the organic material constitutes the highest proportion of this is not likely a fraction that warrants significant environmen-
the waste stream in low income areas, a population with a low tal concern.
purchasing power may generate less organic waste in comparison
with middle and high income groups (Berstein, 2004).
The large seasonal variation in the waste moisture content in
Kétao (4% for the dry season and 33-66% in the rainy season) The survey found that the household waste generation rate for
can partly be explained by the fact that the waste was not dis- Kétao is 0.22 kg capita−1 day−1 in the dry season and 0.42 kg
posed of directly in waste bins and was exposed to drying in the capita−1 day−1 in the rainy season. However, the significant dif-
sun or rainfalls before collection. The waste moisture content in ference in moisture content between seasons leads to almost the
the wet season is comparable to the 55 % reported for Accra, same dry matter waste generation rate in the two seasons. The
Ghana (Etuah-Jackson et al., 2001). waste mainly consisted of vegetables and putrescibles (38%)
and ‘other’ (41%), which is a mixture of soil, sand and leaves.
Despite the high percentage of organic matter in the waste
Waste composition stream, further studies are needed to define appropriate organic
The waste consisted predominantly of material fractions charac- materials that can be used for composting in Kétao. Thus, an
terized as ‘other’ (41%). The explanation for this is the unpaved organized waste collection with a proper dumpsite/landfill is
backyards which are swept twice a day. The swept up trash col- suggested as the backbone of any waste management system for
lected contains a substantial amount of soil and dirt. The soil con- Kétao.
tent in the waste stream in Kétao (41%) is similar to 40% observed
in Lomé, Togo (Kessler and Helbig, 2001), but higher than 22% Acknowledgements
in Kumasi, Ghana (Asase et al., 2009). In contrast, several stud- The extensive support from the local communities of Kétao and the
ies conducted in Africa did not observe or mention soil in the NGO, Association pour le Développement Social et Agricole is
waste stream (Afon and Okewole, 2007; Asase et al., 2009). The much appreciated; without this help the study could not have been
contribution of vegetables and putrescibles in Kétao (38 %) is accomplished. A special thanks to Jørn Rasmussen for taking part in
lower than the estimated average contribution of organic matter the waste characterization conducted in January 2010 in Kétao,
at about 40–85% in low income countries (Cointreau, 2006). The Togo.
Edjabou et al. 749

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Danish Society of Engineers. countries. Available at: http://web.worldbank.org/external/default/
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