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Our ICCM Story : The realities of waste in Malawi

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

A big “Thank you” to everyone who took part in the Earth Day ICCM Waste Challenge. Internationally there are many people and organisations committed to reducing, reusing and recycling waste products to promote environmental best practice and address worrying climate change. An increasing number of people now consider what they buy to promote the circular economy and reduce carbon emissions. We are fortunate in UK to have compliant, safe general waste and recycling waste management systems in place. However; 1 in 3 people worldwide have no choice other than dump or burn their waste, causing the spread of disease, polluting waterways and adding to the climate crisis. Malawi is a developing country where waste management is not a priority. Regulatory waste management practice documentation has been written but is rarely followed or enforced.


International Conservation and Clean up Management (ICCM) stemmed from my experience as a project architect of Sam’s Village with African Vision Malawi in the North West rural region of Lilongwe. While living in a rural village I analysed and was shocked by the lack of natural resources, so I started collecting waste (glass and plastic bottles) from Lilongwe to build a compost toilet. Whilst networking and collecting waste I became increasingly aware of the lack of recycling and the impact on people and the environment.

After working with African Vision Malawi, I setup recycling waste collections and started an environmental waste education programme in a local Government schools.

Holistic waste management results in a cleaner environment and the improved health of the community. It also opens up commercial opportunity to generate an income for people trained to make product from recycled/waste material that are viable to compete with the existing market or products. Peoples’ practical skills need to be improved or supported to enable them to reuse & recycling materials which is hampered by severe poverty and opportunity for training provision. This means that we need to provide trainee innovators/entrepreneurs and our educational trainers with a daily allowances to sustain their families.

4 years on our passion, hard work and commitment has resulted in gaining bespoke expertise and skills through several waste management projects, including working with schools, city council waste transfer stations and community groups. We now safely collect waste from offices, households and restaurants. Our Waste Management best practice and education activities have impacted positively in Malawi, achieving 15 of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

COVID 19 is yet another disease having a devastating effect on the people in Malawi. Lockdown is extremely difficult to operate or enforce when people live hand to mouth. Measures have been put in place by the Government, but waste will continue to be collected in open trucks and taken to the open dumpsites, where kids will continue to scavenge amongst dangerous materials to try and find any saleable material. Waste workers are some of the poorest paid people in Malawi, despite working in the public health sector.

For ICCM as many projects come to an end, it’s a time for analysis, planning and adaptation to enable us to continue and increase our positive activities. We remain focussed on protecting people and the environment whilst creating and/or supporting commercial opportunity for those who need it most.

As our fundraising events have had to be postponed this year, we desperately need financial help and appreciate your support to enable us to continue our activities. A donation of any amount really will make a difference and be put to the best possible use.

Thank you Photography by Chika Onuu please see more on instagram @chikaonuu

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