Mbeubeuss: Senegal’s Largest Landfill and Waste Management Projects

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The Mbeubeuss landfill, located in the suburbs of Dakar, Senegal, is one of the largest open-air landfills in West Africa. The 115-hectare area was created in 1968 on a dried-up lake. Behind its immensity lie poignant realities, symbolizing both the despair of more than 17,000 people faced with air and groundwater pollution, lung disease, insecurity, etc., and the hope of the 2,000 waste pickers for whom it is a place of work and a source of income.

The current situation

Receiving around 3,000 tonnes of waste daily with 9% of plastic the landfill has accumulated nearly 17 million tonnes over heights reaching 10 to 20 meters and over 18,000 tonnes that are buried. Every year, waste pickers collect 55,055 tonnes of recyclable materials, avoiding the emission of over 100,987 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Five decades of anarchic operation have exposed Mbeubeuss to frequent fires, resulting in loss of life and materials. At the heart of this reality, over 2,000 waste pickers collect, sort, wash, and sell the waste with few hygiene or safety measures.
Mbeubeuss has two separate unloading platforms: one private, reserved for waste from specific entities with exclusive collectors on a contractual basis, and one public, where collectors are free to pick up the waste. No matter where it comes from, all waste follows a similar circuit at Mbeubeuss. The trucks pass over the weighbridge before unloading onto one of the platforms. After collection, the waste collectors sort and store the waste and sell it on the spot to intermediary resellers or industries.

Plastic waste sorted and packaged ready for sale to retailers

Naturally, Mbeubeuss often refers to waste pickers, but various professions interact in an interdependent way at this landfill site. As Mouhamadou Wade (Secretary General of the collectors’ association, Bokk Diom) told us, “There are as many jobs in this landfill as you can imagine”. Truckers deliver waste to Mbeubeuss, where waste pickers sort it meticulously to recover recyclable materials such as plastic, glass, paper, metal, and wood. These collectors then sell their stocks to resellers and wholesalers. Before selling them to recyclers and artisans, they pass them to cutters and washers. In addition, the site is home to restaurant owners, water and snack sellers, small shop managers, and guards, all contributing to a complex economic ecosystem at Mbeubeuss.

ACC Team meets PET waste collectors in Mbeubeuss. PET waste known as orphan waste, is one of the least collected plastics recycled in landfill due to a lack of PET recycling companies

Landfill Heroes

Siny Dia left Senegal as a young man to emigrate to Côte d’Ivoire, looking for opportunities. For 25 years, he performed difficult manual labor working at cocoa and coffee plantations. In 2008, he switched to collecting plastic waste from the landfill sites in Banco, Abidjan. However, in 2011, the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire forced him to return to Senegal. Rather than be discouraged, Siny continued collecting plastics in Dakar at Mbeubeuss.

At first, his entourage didn’t understand his choice and criticized him. Back then, collecting plastics from landfills was seen as a thankless job. But Siny was determined to succeed. He learned on the job, developed effective techniques, and formed a small team. His efforts paid off and he has become one of the leading suppliers to many Senegalese recycling companies. Wishing to extend his impact, Siny has trained other collectors, some of whom became entrepreneurs. Today, Siny runs his plastics recycling company, generating up to ten jobs. His ambition is to develop his business and employ more people to tackle the problem of plastic waste.

Beverage crate waste (polypropylene type). There is a large quantity of this type of waste. It is one of the most widely collected types of recycled plastic.

Bokk Diom’s commitment

Feeling marginalized by politics and the waste management system, the waste pickers of Mbeubeuss founded the Bokk Diom Association in 1995, officially recognized by the Senegalese government in 1998. It has over 1,200 members. It is well structured around a general assembly, a steering committee, an executive board, a health committee, a management committee and an educational office. Elections are held every five years. The Association’s objectives include recognizing waste collectors, fighting discrimination and poverty, defending their rights, creating employment opportunities, developing educational activities, raising awareness and strengthening unity among waste collectors. However, several constraints persist, including poor information flow between leaders and members, a lack of diversification of financial resources, limited negotiating capacity, and low representation in decision-making bodies relating to the Mbeubeuss landfill site.

Sorted plastic waste ready to be sold to intermediate or wholesale collectors.

In December 2021, the Association, in partnership with the International Labor Office and WIEGO, established a new cooperative, bringing together 557 waste collectors who are now officially registered. The aim is to optimize waste recovery operations, enhance the socio-economic contribution of their work, and integrate it into the national solid waste management plan. Obtaining a membership card from the Association is necessary to be a member. Its main objective is to formally structure and supervise the work of the collectors, which until now has been carried out on an informal basis. To achieve this, the cooperative takes charge of the entire operational chain: it collects the waste, sorts it, processes it, and markets the recycled products.

The Resorption Project

Launched in 2021 by the Senegalese government, with the support of the World Bank, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), with funding of 206 billion FCFA, the PROMOGED project aims to improve solid waste management in seven (7) regions in Senegal. The project lasts five years and includes the installation of collection equipment, the construction of treatment infrastructures and the strengthening of local capacities to optimize the waste management system at a territorial level in a sustainable manner. Overall, 400 infrastructures will be built, and more than 12 landfills will be rehabilitated, including Mbeubeuss.

Since May 23, 2023, PROMOGED has been governed by the National Integrated Waste Management Company (SONAGED), a public limited company 100% owned by the State of Senegal. This public entity aims to structure the sector, develop the circular economy, and promote intercommunity and public-private partnerships. Its objectives are to treat 2.5 million tonnes of waste annually and create 17,000 jobs. With an annual budget of FCFA 200 billion, SONAGED is responsible for building the infrastructure required for sustainable waste treatment by the 557 municipalities involved. This new national company is set to become the pillar of the country’s thriving waste management sector.

ACC meets an intermediate collector (left) who buys from the collectors directly, and a wholesaler who buys from the intermediate collectors and sells directly to the recyclers.

The Mbeubeuss landfill will gradually be transformed into a sorting and transfer center (CTT) and a composting platform, but until then, the landfill will remain open. The plan is to upgrade the infrastructure by installing CCTV cameras and lighting. Socio-economic support for informal workers is also planned. Social and recreational infrastructures will be created for residents (Eco Park, playground, green space). The project also includes initiatives to support local communities in terms of health, education, and quality of life. The main challenge will be to carry out this work while maintaining activity on the site during the rehabilitation. Once done, the new transfer center (landfill) will be in the Mbao classified forest, less than 10km from Mbeubeuss.

At this time, already three years after the start of the project, PROMOGED is still only in the process of implementing its strategic plan with a goal to install 209 collection points, 178 standardized grouping points, 14 grouping and commercialization centers, 5 sorting and transfer centers and 15 integrated waste recovery centers.

ACC: An Initiative for a Sustainable Future:

Africa Carbon and Commodities (ACC) is committed to reducing plastic waste and finding solutions for waste management in Africa. It works with waste pickers (including those from Bokk Diom and Mbeubeuss). Recognizing their crucial role in recycling, ACC includes them in its plastic credit initiatives and projects, underlining their importance to the success of harmful waste reduction policies across the continent.

ACC also works with Senegalese government organizations such as DEEC (Environment and Classified Establishments Direction) and SONAGED, with whom a plastic credit project is currently being discussed. Furthermore, ACC is working on integrating plastic credits into national laws and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes to sustainably improve plastic waste management, involve all stakeholders, encourage environmental innovation, finance collection and recycling infrastructures, consider the management of hard-to-recycle plastics, raise public awareness of plastic waste issues while promoting a circular economy.

Monitoring and information visit to collectors on our plastic credit project. The ACC meets with members of Bokk Diom, the waste pickers association.