Cameroon through the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development has recently joined the African Circular Economy Alliance and continues to drive the transition towards a circular economy. Apart from the government’s commitment, there are several other private circular economy initiatives in Cameroon in the areas of crafts, plastics and packaging, agri-food systems and energy. High level discussions around these initiatives will take place during the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF2022): Africa Studio-Cameroon to be held from 6th to 7th December 2022 in Yaounde, Cameroon.
What is the circular economy?
Circular economy is a concept that promotes sustainability by keeping material in use for as long as possible. It is a system that works in a loop by limiting the consumption and waste of resources as well as the production of waste and pollution. It aims to move from a society based on a linear economy (extract, manufacture, consume, throw away) to a circular economic model that regenerates natural systems and promotes economic and social equity.
To be effective, the concept of circular economy must first be applied at the initial stage of the production value chain. Then the sustainable consumption patterns integrating reuse and finally the recovery of waste including recycling and energy recovery.
Circular economy legislation in Cameroon is still in its infancy. However, some progress can be observed in the approach by public authorities as the concept of circular economy is gradually being introduced into the landscape. Indeed, for several years now, public authorities have been working on this issue and initiatives are underway.
Currently in Cameroon, there are a few initiatives aimed at promoting a circular economy transition, especially with regards to waste management. They are led by civil societies, local authorities, the administration and even individuals in various sectors.
Non-biodegradable waste management and circular economy in Cameroon
Management models for electronic waste, electrical equipment (WEEE) and plastic waste
Non-biodegradable waste is varied, including electronic waste and electrical equipment (WEEE). Examples include; televisions, irons, crushers, computers, etc. WEEE is classified as one of the most toxic and difficult to treat wastes stream. The sustainable management of these types of waste requires expertise and means that households do not have. In Cameroon, there are a few organisations that collect WEEE, such as Solidarité Technologique. This organisation collects WEEE in the city of Yaoundé, dismantle it and recondition it to sell it as raw material for the manufacture of other electronic and electro-technical appliances.
Non-biodegradable waste also includes plastic waste. It is one of the biggest sources of pollution in Cameroonian cities. Bottles and other plastic objects are dumped anarchically in the streets of the cities and end up in the waterways, thus polluting the environment. Since 2016, Namé Recycling has undertaken to collect and process these plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Namé Recycling collects and recycles plastic waste and transforms it into semi-finished products (granules) and finished products (foils).
The Waste exchange: a circular economy idea underway at the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED)
The Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development (MINEPDED) is planning to set up a physical and electronic platform for the collection, sale, purchase and transformation of solid waste in Cameroon. This project, when fully implemented will be a commendable circular economy model. The waste exchange would be a database available on the Internet that would allow companies to consult and publish offers and requests for waste. Through this platform, companies that generate waste will be put in contact with those that can recover it (reuse, recycle).
Agriculture and circular economy in Cameroon
Model from waste to compost in the Dschang municipality
In Cameroon, a waste management model promoted by a local authority has been attracting attention for several years now. This is the Dschang council in the West Region of Cameroon. The bio-waste contained in household waste is sorted and transformed into compost. This compost is used to enrich plantations- replacing chemical fertilisers. This waste recovery scheme has a triple effect that spreads across the economic, environmental and social levels.
Economically, waste recovery creates many jobs in the Dschang municipality for example. On the environmental level, the production of compost by the town hall and its use by farmers allows for a biological and eco-friendly fertilisation of the soil, thus limiting groundwater pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. On the social level, in addition to the consumption of healthy food, the project also has a direct impact on hygiene and sanitation in the city. The success of this pilot initiative motivated the municipality of Dschang to equip itself in January 2021 with a semi-automatic unit for sorting and transforming organic waste into compost with a processing capacity of 30,000 tonnes of waste per year.
Example of public involvement in the practice of the circular economy by Action for Sustainable Development
“Act at your level for a more circular than linear economy”. This is the message that Action for Sustainable Development (ASD) conveys to young people in schools, other institutions, and in households in the cities of Kribi and Yaoundé in the South and Central regions of Cameroon respectively. ASD focuses on two pillars of the circular economy that the population can better practice with limited means. These are the extension of useful life and recycling. Thus, ASD is raising awareness and supporting the population to reuse plastic bottles and other plastic containers for urban agriculture. Households now reuse bottles to produce vegetables and other spices. Similarly, wooden mini-bins are installed in households to produce compost on a small scale.