1.1 Orientation of the Study
Historically, recycling solid waste has always existed in the form of waste re-use by salvaging materials like leather, feathers and textiles and was regarded as a fringe industry (Choi, 2012). Little attention was given to it. Many people partly survived by selling recovered discarded materials. In addition, recovery of waste in the recycling chain had been associated mainly with the poor and disadvantaged people in society (Luitel & Khanal, 2010) a practice still dominant in most developing countries (Ndum, 2013 & Swanpan, 2009). Factors that push people into waste picking are fundamentally socio-economic with the poor people being forced to make choices between starving or picking waste for a living (Medina, 2008).
Over the years recycling patterns have changed due to growing demand for raw materials, increasing waste and the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies which task manufacturers to take responsibility for managing their end-of-life (EOL), (Choi,2012).The natural environment has always been the main source for raw materials in the production of goods through mineral extraction, timber logging and oil drilling. However, studies report that rising demand for raw materials has lead to shortages and high prices due to competition for the available limited resources (Hilpert & Milder, 2013; European Technology Platform on Sustainable Mineral Resources, (ETP SMR), 2013). This development has contributed to growth of recycling as a sound approach that promotes sustainability in the 21st century. For example, the major importers of scrap are Turkey, USA and the Asian countries: India, China, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand (BIR, 2013 and 2016). In order to reduce the deficit of metallic raw materials, Japan recycles through recovering compounds and materials from products which have reached their end of life like vehicles. The practise of urban mining as it is known according to (Gutberlet, 2015 as cited in Belgiorno & Cesaro , 2017) is considered as a very useful strategy to regain important raw materials such as metals with benefits of resource conservation, environmental protection and economic advantages as well. In 2008 the EU, launched the Raw Materials Initiative (RMI) with recycling as one of its Strategy on raw materials. According to (BIR, 2013 and 2016) China’s demand for steel rose from 512.3 million tons in 2008 to 798.8 million tons in 2015 of which 72 and 90.1 million tons came from scrap. Turkey and USA’s steel manufacturing industries used more than 76% and 71.7% of scrap in 2015 respectively. Recycling solid waste involving processing of waste material into new products has become an integral part of society today (BIR, 2009).
Recycling is multi-functional system with dual functions of secondary material production and waste management (Nakatani, 2014). The recycling industry growth has also been propelled by increased waste generation. According to (Hoornweg & Bhada-Tata, 2015; Smith 2012; UN-Habitat, 2010) growing volumes of waste linked to high consumption patterns, increases in populations, better living standards and economic development has also brought the problematics of waste recovery and recycling to be part of society because of the negative impact of waste on the environment and human health. The need for sustainability in waste management has led to recycling being viewed as a necessity than an option in dealing with the increase in waste. The old concept of throwing away trash no longer works, as emphasized by Smith (2012).
In developing countries, recycling solid waste is an emerging industry with benefits emanating from new raw material industries, production processes, products and markets, based on reuse of pre-used and discarded raw materials ( Swapan, 2009). In the regional context of southern Africa, dimensions of waste recovery and recycling as an emerging industry have been rarely researched in economic geography. Forbes & Kirsch (2011) as cited in Tunner (2012) noted a blind spot in the field of economic geography, regarding asking questions about the emergence of new industries. Further, Choi (2012) reported a lack of adequate research in the recycling industry e.g. in areas of growth of the industry and its spatial patterns with Namibia not being an exception.
The structure of the industry in Namibia is a combination of both the formal and informal sectors (Kayaking & Matongela, 2012) with the majority of the formal companies in food and drink processing, wood and furniture, engineering and repair activities. Small scale industries are mainly concentrated in retailing. In Namibia formal recycling is an industry yet to be understood and researched. Recycling has been highlighted in studies conducted by Mutumba, 2005; Keyter 2009; Hasheela 2009; Magen 2010 & Lindell 2012) emphasizing the need to do in-depth studies on recycling. This research is the first of its kind, that seeks to investigate the issues of formal recycling in Namibia from a geographic point of view.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The unfolding revolution of sustainability in resource conservation and environmental protection has created an awareness of the importance of recycling world-wide including Namibia (Sukholthaman, 2012). Resource scarcity has led to the exploration of alternative resources and recycling is an area rapidly gaining popularity in this drive. As reported by studies conducted (Hasheela, 2009; Magen, 2010; Lindell, 2012; Croset, 2014), Namibia is recycling solid waste. Ashipala (2012) reported that recycling solid waste in Namibia is still a fledgling business which is associated with the production of new materials. In the Namibian context, emerging industries are a newly classified sector of the economy. Bird (2010), Abernathy and Utterback (1978; Forbes and Kirsch, 2011) as cited in Tanner (2012) observed that such industries are often difficult to be identified during their early development phases until their products appear on the market.
Data about the industry in Namibia is still limited as not much records are kept (Recycle Namibia Forum, 2013) resulting in little information known about the industry by the generality of the population. While previous studies revealed that recycling activities are on-going in the country, no single comprehensive study had been carried out regarding the industry. This research is a direct response to that knowledge gap. Urban areas and local authorities struggling with solid waste management could benefit from a broadened understanding of the industry. In light of such insights, this study investigated the recycling industry in Namibia.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of the study was to investigate the recycling industry in Namibia, an emerging economic sector involved in the recovery, processing of raw materials, manufacturing and subsequent purchasing of produced goods. Against this background, specific objectives of the study were to:
1. Identify players and investigate the motives and extent of involvement in solid waste recycling in Namibia;
2. Examine legislation and policies, guiding waste recovery and recycling in Namibia;
3. Investigate emerging waste recycling trends, recycling value addition processes and associated benefit chains;
4. Establish local and regional operational network linkages in the industry; and
5. Come up with a model to guide waste management and recycling in Namibia.
1.4 Significance of the Study
It is without doubt that Namibia is recycling. The industry is still in its infancy, becoming one among growing like economic activities such as mining, fishing, agriculture, tourism. It was evident that not much research in solid waste recycling economy has conducted to date, except in connection with the logistics of solid waste management (Croset, 2014; Schioldborg, 2014; Jacobsen et al., 2014; Lindell, 2012; Magen, 2010; Hasheela, 2009). Economic activities are important in development and are to shape public policy. Therefore the findings will serve to close data and knowledge gaps emphasizing economic aspects. Results may provide fundamental inputs into the understanding of the recycling industry, and perhaps formulation of policies for awareness building, operational practices and governance in the recycling industry. Academically, findings are expected to change known perceptions about waste and add knowledge in the discipline of applied economic geography as well as to pave way for further research.
1.5 Limitations of the Study
The research was a case study, qualitative in nature. Qualitative research by design and data acquisition depends greatly on the willingness of respondents to participate which came out to be a big challenge as some of them were not willing to do so. Efforts by the researcher to get them on board proved difficult as the researcher was continuously given empty promises by those who tried to be diplomatic compared to some whom out rightly said no. Phone calls to enquire and book for appointments were not answered in some instances resulting in the researcher working with a lesser number of participants than the initial intended number of twenty companies which were identified.
In addition, of those who were willing to participate, not all were patient enough to accommodate the 30 – 45 minute interview by the research as this was deemed to be a waste of the company time. The researcher had to adjust accordingly thus compromising the level of detail needed. Moreover, company officials were very careful in their responses and thus the researcher only managed to get general information leaving without additional information which was considered confidential.
Data acquisition through document search yielded very little as the researcher failed to have access to company documents. Information was once again considered confidential. The researcher had to work with information given only during interviews, observations and online company information.
Financial constraints was another challenge for the researcher, thus was only able to gather information from places that were reachable and also in proximity to the researcher. Namibia is vast territory, so it was not easy for the researcher to visit the whole breadth of the country to collect data. The researcher only managed to get most of the information from companies in Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Okahandja and Keetmanshoop.
Another limitation of this study was the focus on Namibia’s formal recycling industry only leaving out the informal that was also contributing to the recycling chain where, as far as this researcher is concerned, no studies on recycling of solid waste have been conducted. Future research could look into this area to establish the role and contribution to the industry. The researcher left out this component due to language barrier and safety concerns.
In summary, the major limitation of the study was the unwillingness of the respondents to divulge data on volumes and prices for their merchandise on suspicions and fear of competitors. The researcher therefore had to make do with information she managed to gather.
1.6 Motivation of Study
Earlier studies on municipal solid waste management motivated the researcher to conduct this study. The studies focused on disposal of waste and how landfill sites locations shifted over time in Harare. The observations were that landfills were shifting further and further away from sources of waste generation, a situation regarded unsustainable. This situation created a difficult operational environment for traditional council operations and prompted the need for private sector involvement.
Further on, the recycling program rolled out in Windhoek in 2010 by the CoW Solid Waste Management Department created further interest in this field. A lot was going on at the time which was quite visible to the public eye. Small trucks ferrying recyclables around the City was a common scenario. Recyclables being collected from some households, street waste pickers picking plastics, bottles, cans, recycling monuments and council advertisements about recycling on waste removal trucks, public awareness campaigns were some of the activities.
The impetus to do a research was increased as the researcher had a lot of questions about the whole program. Some of these questions were:
I. How is recycling assisting in solid waste management?
II. How is the private sector involved in the recycling program?
III. What are the issues involved in successful recycling?
IV. What is happens to the recovered materials?
These deeper thoughts furthered interest into the issues of recycling solid waste as a source of raw materials. As a result of these thoughts, the study was undertaken.
1.7 Study Area
The modern history of the southern African country of Namibia starts with its colonization by the German empire from 1884-1915.Until independence on the 21 of March, 1990, it was under the protectorate of South Africa. Namibia borders the Atlantic Ocean on the west and shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south and east. The country has a total land area of 824 292 km2km2, with a population density of 2.6 people per square kilometer. An estimate of 49.7 % of the population lives in urban areas (Geo-Hive, 2013) with 325 858 in the Capital City of Windhoek according to Namibia 2011 Population and Housing Census Main Report. The majority of the population thrives on agriculture in the rural areas.
Linked to South Africa, the economy is mainly based on mining, tourism, farming, fishing manufacturing, whole sale ; retail trade. The country’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP) is estimated at USD 28 billion (IMF Report, 2013) and GDP – per capita (PPP) of about $11, 500. With a small internal market Namibia is strongly dependant on exports to other countries .United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2015) states that Namibia has experienced multiple years of robust economic growth and has made great strides in human development since independence in 1990. It remains one of the most unequal countries in the world (Namibia Statistics Agency, 2012a) as high inequalities remain within the society. The country has a Gini coefficient of 59.7. The Gini coefficient is a measure of income distribution in a country (CIA, 2014; Economic Policy and Poverty Unit Report, 2013). High unemployment remains a cause of concern with 27.4 percent of the population according to the NSA (Namibian Statistics Agency, 2013).
Figure 1.1: Locality map of Namibia showing major towns and neighbouring countries
Source: Schioldborg (2014)
1.8 Structure of the report
The dissertation is organized into seven chapters.
Chapter one provides the introduction and background of the study, problem statement, aim and objectives, significance of the study, limitations, motivation of the study and the description of the study area.
Chapter 2: Conceptual Framework and Literature review
The chapter presents Conceptual Framework and Literature review. The Conceptual framework covers issues such as overview of recycling, models of recycling, motives, recycling programs as well as benefit chains associated with the industry. The literature review focuses on related studies and their findings.
Chapter 3: Methodology
This chapter outlines the methodology of the study in terms of the research design, study population, sample, data collection techniques, data collections instruments and the data analysis procedures, piloting of the data collection instruments and ethical considerations.
Chapter 4: Presentation and Interpretation of Results
Data is presented in this chapter. Data on motives and extent of involvement of companies in solid waste recycling, legislation and policies governing the industry, network linkages in the industry, value addition and benefit chains of the industry in Namibia are all presented.
Chapter 5: Discussion of Research Findings
The chapter was dedicated to discussing the findings to emerging from the data that was presented in chapter four. The findings were discussed in relation to the thematic herdings that emerged from the main objectives as well as making some comparisons with findings of related studies.
Chapter 6: Proposed Recycling Model
The chapter will highlight the proposed solid waste and recycling model which can assist with waste management in Namibia.
Chapter 7: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
The chapter concludes the research by summarizing the results, presenting recommendations and suggesting areas for further research.