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JENRM, Vol. 2, No.

1, 30-36, 2015
Research Article

Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management

in Ghana
Michael Addaney* , Rose Anarfiwaah Oppong**

Solid waste management is one of the major challenges confronting cities and towns mostly in developing countries. This study
sought to identify as well as subject to critical analysis, certain key factors that are responsible for solid waste management
in Ghana. From the study, 72 percent of households are commonly infected with the Cholera and Malaria pandemic. This
underscores the adverse impacts of indiscriminate littering and irregular collection of waste. The study further discovered that
all actors have very high level of commitment to achieving a sustainable solid waste management. However, the low level of
technical and financial capacity of these actors and the absence of a coordinative framework greatly impedes their operations.
Moreover, the departments within the Municipal Assemblies in Ghana which are responsible for environmental management are
also ill-resourced. The study therefore argues that achieving sustainable solid waste management largely depends on these critical
factors: effective and relevant legal framework; institutional strengthening and capacity building for the private sector as well
as implementation of cost recovery regimes. Others include development of sound partnerships with the private sector, waste
reduction and mainstreaming of recycling activities. Poor environmental conditions challenge the Assemblies efforts at meeting
the health and environment components of the Millennium Development Goals. People, households and communities lose time
as well as money to illness leading to short life spans with workers being less productive. There is little or no financial savings
and investments. Moreover since environmental sustainability is endangered. It is recommended that the Government should
create an enabling working environment that is legally friendly, technically and financially sound as well as market oriented for all
actors who have a stake in solid waste management.
Environmental HealthSanitationSolid WasteWaste Management
* Quality
Assurance and Planning Unit, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani - Ghana. E-mail:
** Environmental
Protection and Agricultural Food Production, Faculty of Agriculture University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart Germany. Email:

Contents could be attributed to the rapid population growth rate

which eventually translates into generation of copious
1 Introduction 30 amounts of solid waste and the lack of technical and fi-
2 Materials and methods 31 nancial resources of Municipal Authorities in Africa to
address the related challenges ([20]; [17]; [15]). Schbeler
3 Results and Discussion 32
(1996 in [6]) defined waste management as any activity
3.1 Solid Waste Management Practices . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
that aims at minimizing the impacts of municipal solid
3.2 Financing of Solid Waste Management . . . . . . . . . . 33 waste on public health and the environment including
3.3 Improper Solid Waste Management . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 characterization and measurement, collection and trans-
3.4 Public Awareness on Solid Waste Management . . . . 33 portation, separation and resource recovery, processing
3.5 The Assemblys Capacity for Solid Waste Management 34 as well as disposal.
3.6 The Role of the Private Sector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 The United Nations Conference on Human Settlement
3.7 Preferred Provider of Waste Collection System . . . . . 34 reports that one-third to one-half of solid waste generated
4 Conclusion 35 within most cities in low and middle income countries
4.1 Towards a Sustainable Solid Waste Management System 35 are not collected; but however end up as illegal dumps
on streets, open spaces and waste lands ([18]). African
References 35
Development Banks study on waste management in 2002
opines that Ghana generates about 3.6 million tons of solid
1. Introduction waste per year which are mainly organic compostables
Municipal Solid Waste Management is an issue of great such as food, yard and wood wastes as well as paper,
concern to urban governance in most developing and plastic, glass and metal.
transitional economies [19] because of solid waste effects Ghana like other developing countries has over the
on environmental health most especially in Africa. This years had difficulties in municipal solid waste management
Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ghana 31/36

with regards to infrastructural and technical inefficien- and community to be emptied into collection vehicles
cies. The impact of poor environmental sanitation and with bins returned thereafter in household and commu-
solid waste in cities and communities in Ghana threaten nal collection methods respectively. The level of service
the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals delivery is however different within income areas (Tsiboe,
(MDGs) especially the MDG 7 (Ensuring Environmen- 2004). [13] opines that waste collection service delivery
tal Sustainability) as well as poverty eradication which is generally very poor in low income areas while that of
are being prioritised by the government in national is- middle and high income areas are comparatively better
sues. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) have therefore since they pay more than the government who pays for
emerged as promising supporters for arresting the situa- low income areas.
tion but has been less successful due to the inability of This study was conducted in the Awutu Senya East
government to fulfil its financial obligations to the pri- Municipality of Ghana. It is located in the Eastern part
vate firms assigned to collect and dispose waste in their of the Central Region of Ghana within Latitudes 5 45
respective jurisdictions. South and 6-00 North with Longitudes of 020 West to
Problems associated with sanitary conditions in rapidly 035 East. It shares common boundaries with the Ga
expanding urban and sub-urban areas cause the spread South Municipal (in the Greater Accra Region) at the
of a number of air and waterborne diseases (Songsore East, Awutu Senya District at the North and Gomoa East
and McGranahan, 1993). Malaria, diarrhoea, intestinal District at the West. The Municipality covers a total
worms and acute upper respiratory tract infections which land area of approximately 180sq km which is about 18%
are examples of poor-sanitation related diseases consti- of the total area of the Region. Kasoa, the Municipal
tute about 85 percent of the reported cases at outpatient Capital is located at the south-eastern part, about 13km
facilities in the country with seasonal epidemic outbreaks off Accra, Ghanas capital. Strategically located, Kasoa
of cholera ([11]). A study undertaken by [2] in Teshie, serves as a dormitory town for about 60 percent of the
a suburb of Accra in Ghana revealed that the type of inhabitants. The overriding aim of the study is to analyze
solid waste collection method used and the incidence of the current municipal solid waste management practices
malaria are moderately but significantly correlated. The and determine the most reliable management mix that
unsanitary conditions render the suburb prone to malaria, will help keep the Municipality clean.
thereby indicating relevance of the study and its findings. The specific objectives of the study are;
Earlier studies have also shown that some components
1. to examine the current solid waste management
of municipal solid waste collect water and hence, become
practices in the Municipality;
potential breeding sites of mosquitoes. Similar situations
can be observed in other cities including Kumasi, Tema 2. to determine the core problems of managing solid
and Sekondi-Takoradi. waste
Waste collection and transportation though the first
3. to recommend practical interventions to ensure ef-
in the waste management concept has proven to be a
fective and sustainable solid waste management in
disorganized system. According to [10] only 80 percent
of the waste generated in the Accra Metropolis is col-
lected. This percentage falls to 35 percent in Kumasi
(Ghanas second largest city) and close to 10 percent 2. Materials and methods
in the northern towns of Bolgatanga, Tamale and Wa. Data was collected primarily from field through structured
The national policy recommends small-scale incineration questionnaires and interviews with key informants as well
plants for the treatment and disposal of health care and as relevant resource persons including four private waste
hazardous wastes. Therefore in most towns with health collectors, the District Health Directorate, Town and
facilities, small incinerators have been built as part of Country Planning Department and the Environmental
the health provision infrastructure. The incinerators are Health Department. Questionnaires were administered
simple designs built with lateritic bricks, cement blocks using stratified random sampling technique. A sample size
and metal with firewood as a source of energy and are of 100 households considering a margin error of 10 percent
easily operated and maintained. [10] asserts that many of and another sample size of 30 non-domestic generators
such facilities have no environmental controls and often (institutions) with a margin error of 17 percent were used.
comprise of nothing more than combustion of medical Data collected was edited to ensure that the needed data
and chemical waste in an oven or open pit. has been captured. Subsequently, the result of the cleaned
The three solid waste collection methods practiced data was collated using Statistical Programme for Social
in Ghana are; kerbside, house-to-house and communal Scientists (SPSS). Moreover, secondary data relevant to
collections. Kerbside collection system involves collection municipal solid waste management were obtained from
of deposited waste on specific days at the kerbside. Waste technical publications and journals to elicit contemporary
collection crew picks up the waste from each household knowledge on the subject. The syntheses of findings
Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ghana 32/36

were analysed and discussed with the necessary inferred As shown in table 1 above, about 45 percent of house-
recommendations proposed. holds do not have access to durable waste storage contain-
ers thereby resorting to the use of sacks and polythene
bags since it is relatively a cheaper alternative. Most of
3. Results and Discussion the refuse is kept close to kitchens and rooms, causing
3.1 Solid Waste Management Practices diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever. Conversely,
the proportion of non-domestic generators using sacks
There are no well defined systems of dealing with waste
and polythene bags and other unsustainable materials is
as per the survey. However, practices adopted are skewed
lower than that of households (30 percent). Moreover, 39
towards waste collection with little emphasis on reduction,
percent of households use either metal or plastic contain-
recycling and re-use of waste.
ers with covers for waste storage and are mostly middle
and higher income earners who patronize private waste
3.1.1 Waste Generation and Characterization
collection. Refuse containers are usually emptied twice
From the study, the Municipality generates about 15
every month. It could be inferred that in spite of the
tons of solid waste daily which are mainly organic and
type of material used for storing waste the frequency of
composed of compostables (such as kitchen, yard and
emptying these containers is crucial to the health of the
wood wastes), paper, plastic, glass and scrap metal. Oth-
people. This is because improperly stored waste that is
ers include textiles, leather coconut husks and electronic
kept over a long period of time could be dangerous to
wastes. It was further discovered that due to the high
public health especially those using baskets, containers,
level of urbanization, the waste generation has increased
sacks and polythene bags.
from 15 tons in 2009 to 23 tons in 2014. It could be
inferred that the rapid sprawling of the Municipality has 3.1.3 Solid Waste Collection System
greatly increased the amount of solid waste produced. Cognizant of the severity of indiscriminate dumping and
This pattern in waste composition is attributed to high littering with a greater proportion of waste left uncollected
spending among rich people and a relatively low level of in the Municipality, the Assembly engages the services of
recovery of components such as plastics and papers ([5]. private waste collectors to complement the collection of
Moreover, compared with results from available studies residential and commercial solid waste. Of the total waste
by [8] conducted in Kumasi, the proportions of organics generated per week (105 tons), only 25 percent of the
in the waste from all areas are relatively lower. Generally, quantity is collected (26 tons), which is 5 percent lesser
the composition of household waste in the study area than the national collection rate. This leaves behind
presents a good opportunity for waste recycling. This a total of 80 tons uncollected waste. Comparing this
however requires intensive education of residents to prac- collection rate to the Municipal Assemblys target of 80
tice separation of waste at source since approximately half percent collection, there is a huge shortfall of 55 percent.
of the waste could be considered for recycling through This trend threatens the health of the inhabitants and the
composting. [21] underscores the importance of recycling illegal piles of waste attest to this fact. With regards to
organic components to ensure sustainable solid waste collection composition, the Municipal Assembly collects
management. 35 percent whiles the private sector collects the remaining
55 percent. It is important to note that the quantity of
3.1.2 Solid Waste Storage waste left uncollected does not serve only as a nuisance
Storage of solid waste generated domestically from com- to public health but as points for scavenging activities
mercial premises or institutions is the first activity in the where recoverable wastes are collected and recycled too.
Solid Waste Management process and collection. Wide However, waste picked for this activity is very minimal due
ranges of equipment are used by waste generators in to the composition of the waste and the lack of support
storing their waste. These include metal and plastic con- for the scavengers and recyclers in the Municipality.
tainers, basket and carton containers as well as sacks and
polythene bags. The table below presents the forms of 3.1.4 Solid Waste Disposal
containers available for waste storage to be disposed by Solid waste is disposed off in several ways but the main
households and non-domestic generators. method adopted by households and other generators is
the house-to-house collection system. Table 3.3 provides
Table 1. An Assessment of Container Availability for details of refuse disposal methods in the Kasoa Township.
Waste Storage The table above indicates that most waste generators
patronize house-to-house collection which accounts for 53
percent and 50 percent respectively. This phenomenon
Domestic Waste Generators (Households) Non-Domestic Generators
Type of Container Frequency Percentage (%) Frequency Percentage (%)
Metal and Plastic
Basket and Carton
26.3 could be explained by the urbanized nature of the Mu-
Others (sack, polythene bags) 45 45 9 30
Total 100 100 30 100 nicipality and the absence of public dumps as well as
Source: Field Survey, February 2014 refuse containers for residential areas. The second dis-
Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ghana 33/36

Table 2. Refuse Disposal Methods by Households and Municipality are dotted with heaps of refuse very close
Non-Domestic Generators to residential areas. The situation worsens when liquid
wastes from houses are openly disposed, causing further
Domestic Waste Generators Non-Domestic Generators
stagnation. Greenhouse gases are generated from the de-
Method of Disposal Frequency Percentage (%) Frequency Percentage (%)
Burning 19 19 7 23.3 composition of organic wastes in landfills and untreated
26 26 8 26.7
Buried 2 2 - -
leachate pollutes surrounding soil and water bodies. The
House-to-House 53 53 15 50 use of burning as a method of disposal by almost 20
Total 100 100 30 100
percent of households causes air pollution and possibly
Source: Field Survey, February 2014
contributes to global warming. Open burning of plastic
waste by residents could result in air pollution with as-
posal method by households is dumping where waste is sociated health problems due to heavy metal additives
disposed in communal containers placed at vantage points ([8]). Moreover, littering of the environment with plas-
or anywhere. It could therefore be inferred that house- tics also cause environmental nuisance through choking
holds with low incomes resort to this method though some of drains and reducing the aesthetic beauty of the envi-
are made to pay for disposal at the only private dumpsite ronment. The Municipal Health Service has identified
located at river in the Ayigbe locality. This could pose four human diseases (Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid and Res-
great health threats to the residents since water from this piratory infections) as a result of improper disposal of
river is used for domestic purposes. About 19 percent waste in the Municipality. This discovery validates the
of households and 7 percent of non-domestic generators results obtained from the households interviews on the
burn their waste. This includes those who cannot afford diseases which commonly affect them. Figure 1 provides
user charges by subscribing to private waste collection. information on diseases that commonly affect households
in the Municipality.
3.2 Financing of Solid Waste Management
The management of municipal solid waste has tradition-
ally been the sole responsibility of the government and
consumes 35 percent of municipal budgets besides peri-
odic financial support from development partners with no
marked improvement ([12]). The situation is no different
from the study area since the total budget for solid waste
management as obtained from the survey amounted to
GH130,000 per year representing 35 percent of the total
budget. Of this amount, about 10 percent is spent on
sweepings public streets and public areas in the municipal- Figure 1. Diseases that Commonly Affects Households
ity and 25 percent on maintenance of waste management
equipment. Due to the fact that the Municipal Assembly The chart above indicates that Malaria is the common
is incapable of financing the entire waste stream, other household disease; accounting for 72 percent. Majority
avenues such as user charges have been introduced to (97 percent) of the household respondents agreed that
complement the Assembly sources of funds. The user these diseases are as a result of the insanitary conditions
charge regime is also operated by the private formal and in the Municipality. The study further discovers Cholera
informal sectors where households and commercial waste as the second common disease that affects households.
generators subscribe to pay an amount for a quantity Factors responsible include choked gutters and stagnant
of waste generated. The study revealed that 79 percent water which is rife in the Municipality. Moreover, due to
of households pay for disposing off their refuse either the fact that human faecal matter is commonly found in
by house-to-house collection or dumping. Out of these residential waste, insect and rodent vectors are attracted
households, 43 percent patronize private formal collection to it and spread diseases such as cholera and dengue
(from three registered firms); 10 percent patronize pri- fever. Apparently, contaminated water used for domestic
vate informal collection (5 unregistered groups and cart purposes as well as the preparation of food for commercial
pushers) and the rest patronize a commercial dumpsite. consumption is another contributing factor.

3.3 Improper Solid Waste Management 3.4 Public Awareness on Solid Waste Management
Improper solid waste management poses serious envi- Households were asked questions regarding their aware-
ronment threats through air, land and water pollution. ness of and involvement in environmental management
Environmental conditions in the Municipality is abysmal programmes and projects in the Municipality and whether
such that solid waste has clogged most of the few available they have received any education on environmental cleanli-
drains creating stagnant water for insect breeding and ness as well as where they obtained the education. About
floods during rainy seasons. Large open spaces in the 46 percent of this had education through Community
Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ghana 34/36

Based Organizations. However, 25 percent of households Table 3. Waste Collection Systems by Households and
indicated that they have been given training by the Mu- Commercial Institutions
nicipal Assembly through the Environmental Health De-
Domestic Waste Generators Non-Domestic Generators
partment. It can therefore be concluded that some public Preferred Provider Frequency Percentage (%) Frequency Percentage (%)
14 14 5 16.7
awareness is being created with little yielded results due
Local Government
Private Company 60 60 13 43.3
No difference 26 26 12 40
to the rising of indiscriminate disposal and littering in Total 100 100 30 100

the Municipality. Source: Field Survey, February 2014

3.5 The Assemblys Capacity for Solid Waste Man- the private and public sector and therefore would like any
agement of them to provide them with collection services.
The Municipal Assembly through the Environmental
Health and Sanitation Department (ESHD) is in charge
of solid waste management in the Municipality. This
mandates the EHSD to develop as well as maintain clean
human settlements to promote the socio-economic and
physical well-being of the population. Although to collect
80 percent of all refuse generated is one objective of the
department, only 25 percent of the generated waste is
collected and disposed in the Municipality from findings
of the study. Out of this percentage, the department
is able to collect 45 percent while the rest is collected
by the private sector. Moreover, environmental health
personnel in the Municipality were 34 technicians and 75
non-technicians in the Municipality. However, the Assem-
bly needs about 60 technicians and 120 non-technicians.
Therefore the Municipality ought to adequately cater for
available staff by building their capacity as well as recruit
more staff to improve the situation.

3.6 The Role of the Private Sector

Competent as well as committed human and financial
resources are required to effectively manage municipal
solid waste. Therefore, private sectors well-known to
have financial, managerial and technical capacity to prop-
erly manage waste help government out in this regard.
Therefore the Municipal Assembly has encouraged private
sector participation with three registered private collec-
tion firms in the collection and disposal of solid waste.
General services provided include the collection of residen-
tial solid waste and collection of commercial waste from
large hotels, offices, markets or stores both by private
subscription. The study revealed that the main sources
of fund for these actors are user charges and banks loans.

3.7 Preferred Provider of Waste Collection System

Table 3.7 below presents waste collection services pre-
ferred by households and commercial institutions prefer,
the study confirmed that the private sector is seen capable
of effectively providing solid waste collection services.
As shown in the table above, 60 percent and 43 percent
of households and institutions respectively opted for the
private sector with the remark that the private sectors
were more efficient than the public sectors. Interestingly,
26 percent and 40 percent of households and institutions
respectively saw no difference between the operations of
Critical Issues of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ghana 35/36

4. Conclusion of the people towards cleanliness. Voluntary com-

pliance cannot be relied on to ensure that waste
4.1 Towards a Sustainable Solid Waste Management
producers engage in good environmental sanitation
behavior. The people know what constitutes de-
In the quest to achieve a sustainable integrative Solid cent environmental sanitation practices but would
Waste Management System, several recommendations not engage in these practices. Municipal Assem-
have been made by various stakeholders focusing on capi- blies should therefore make conscious effort to im-
tal intensiveness and recycling, waste reduction, capacity plement and enforce the environmental sanitation
building of the local government as well as private sec- regulations and bye-laws. Enforcing these bye-laws
tor development among others to be applied in varying would result in compliance and cost savings for the
contexts. From this study, achieving a sustainable and Assemblies.
integrative approach to Municipal Solid Waste Manage-
ment depends on a range of programmes and policies. It
is imperative to note that environmental health cannot
be ruled out of economic growth and sustainable devel-
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