Digitising Mozambique’s waste supply chain
Work has concluded on a study to establish if a digital waste management solution could improve waste collection and recycling in Southern Africa.
The study, and pilot roll-out of the KOLEKT digital waste management app, was conducted in Mozambique with funding provided by the European Union Africa RISE (Reform for Investment and Sustainable Economies) programme, and resulted in the adoption of KOLEKT by Mozambique’s only commercial plastic recycler, Topack.
Circular Action worked with the Mozambique Recycling Association, AMOR Mozambique, to establish a chain of end-to-end users and to promote and coordinate the use of the app by Maputo’s informal waste pickers. Through the clever design of the app, waste pickers who only own basic phones, or who do not own any phone at all, are still able to use the app to trade the waste that they collect.
The project sought to establish users including informal waste pickers, community recycling points, businesses such as restaurants and even a church, which are all now using the free app to trade the different types of waste they have collected with the country’s only commercial recycler, Topack. Topack purchases two different types of plastic waste, HDPE and PP plastics, to make products, and to export for recycling. The KOLEKT app has allowed Topack to gain additional information about its waste transactions, and as well as being used at its central processing site, it has plans to use the app in its collection vehicles.
“For Topack, the app enables more transparency to the transaction and business overall.” said, Tiago Cepeda, Topack.
“After ironing out some initial problems, and adjusting the app for local usage, the response to the app by both sellers and buyers was very positive, despite requiring a change in their practices. Sellers were quick to see how they could increase their income, or in the case of the church, to create an additional revenue stream through the sale of donated waste, and they were keen to participate. For the buyer, the app offers an easy way to identify and secure new sources of the plastic they want, and to better record the buying and selling of plastics by their field team.” Thierry Sanders commented.
Mozambique has an acute lack of recycling infrastructure and underfunded municipal waste collection, with less than 1.5% of the 700,000 tonnes of solid waste produced, being recycled.The proportion is even lower in rural areas due to a lack of collection facilities and waste is often burned or dumped on vacant land, and into rivers, lakes and ocean.
Over the course of the pilot the number of KOLEKT users steadily increased from 10 users in May 2023 to 423 users in July and over 1,800 users at the end of October 2023. Over 380 tonnes of recyclables, averaging 70 kg and EUR 13 per transaction, were traded through the app.
Over the past six months Topack made over 4,800 transactions and gained over 1,500 users. These are actors throughout the Topack recycling supply chain, 90% are informal waste pickers, and approximately 80% are women.
Over the same period, AMOR made 600 transactions at its four EcoPoint buying centers. It has registered 600 new sellers of which the most are also informal collectors, mainly women.
AMOR’s Founder Stephane Temperman said, “I am so convinced by an app like KOLEKT for the circular economy, that I have hired a team of 5 staff to roll it out.”
Mozambique does not have Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation in place yet, but is exploring the benefits and complexities in the coming years to help tackle the waste problem.
KOLEKT is proving to be an efficient solution for countries that depend on the informal sector for waste management. As well as generating proof of purchase of recyclables, it registers the seller, the buyer, the GPS location and photos of the materials collected, helping recyclers to certify their environmental service. Once independently audited, recyclers are able to sell these certificates to the companies producing the waste, in order for them to comply with EPR type legislation or commitments. These certificates are called ‘plastic credits’ and are designed to make recycling more lucrative, thereby generating more demand for recyclable materials and boosting the circular economy.
Through Africa RISE, The learnings from Mozambique will now be shared with other countries in the Southern African (SADC) region, including Angola, which was originally going to be included in this pilot.