Vulnerability of growing cities to solid waste-related environmental hazards: The case of Mthatha, South Africa

Type Journal Article - Journal of Disaster Risk Studies
Title Vulnerability of growing cities to solid waste-related environmental hazards: The case of Mthatha, South Africa
Volume 11
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2019
The rising prevalence of the failure of fast-growing cities’ waste authorities to account for solid waste service function and provide effective solid waste systems poses serious environmental hazards and health risks. Household solid waste mismanagement in Mthatha, a fast-growing city in South Africa with a rapid population increase, is emerging as a major environmental hazard. An effective solid waste audit system could reduce the extent of this problem. This study aimed at categorising and quantifying household solid waste generation and determining the drivers of waste generation and mismanagement that have the potential to increase risk and/or vulnerability to household solid waste-related environmental hazards. Stratified random sampling was used to select 248 sample households and to categorise them according to upgraded high-density informal residential settlements (64), high-density formal residential settlements (62), middle-density residential settlements (61) and low-density residential settlements (61). The results revealed that the waste generation rate increased one moves from informal settlements (1.84 bags of waste per household per week) to low-density, low socio-economic statuses (2.26 bags), middle-density settlements (2.39 bags) and low-density residential settlements (2.84 bags). Food waste was the most commonly generated type of waste for more than 50% of the respondents. Approximately 89% of the most common types of waste reported across all settlements had the potential to be recycled, reused or composted. Only four factors emerged as significant determinants (p < 0.05) of the volume of solid waste generated per household per week: household socio-economic status, household size, knowledge of waste management and household participation in waste separation. Results on drivers of household solid waste generation and variations across residential settlements could be utilised when designing growing cities’ waste management plans, with the objective of reducing the volume of solid waste sent to landfill sites, illegal dumping and open burning of waste, thus reducing the associated negative impacts that mismanaged waste poses to the environment. Enforcing waste separation at the household level could promote reuse and recycling, which in turn would reduce waste volumes.

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