To Zanzibar - Week 2

A lot has happened in one week here in Tanzania. Not only have we switched programs from Sila College to the State University of Zanzibar, but we’ve also moved from mainland Africa to a small island east of Arusha. Zanzibar is still a part of Tanzania; only it’s not connected to the continent! 

This week I thought I’d cover something that stood out to me during my short time in Arusha, garbage and recycling management. I feel very naive for thinking recycling is a privilege that everyone can afford. Of course, resources are different in different countries, but the trash situation was merely unexpected.

Although I’m happy to be out of the rainy mountain weather of Arusha, I find myself torn between enjoying the beautiful island, and talking more thoroughly about garbage management. While trash disposal is a worldwide issue, I’ve noticed more problems with it here in less developed East African cities. Nairobi, Kenya has minimal trash problems and is well guarded and maintained in high-end areas, but I contrast, on the outskirts and in smaller towns, you notice more trash and trash burning. Arusha is a more rural area without as many resources, and Trash burning and littering seem to be more common practices. 

GAEA is all about saving the world and learning about its people and cultures. This topic is vital to me because it covers both the importance of environmental care and acknowledging privilege. So, I do want to recognize that I was only in Arusha for a week so I do not know every in and out about their trash system, but these are my observations. 

I never saw anyone litter during my stay in Arusha, but the ditches and pseudo sidewalks seemed to be covered in plastic bottles, paper bags, and other random trash. Sometimes it would be burning, but most times it was just trash in piles and spread out sporadically on the side of the road. It was odd to see so much waste not disposed of properly, but it was so familiar that it made me question some things. How does the government handle waste disposal? Is trash burning legal and common? How clean is the air in these areas?

My questions and concerns also extend to the breakdown of trash in water sources which are especially concerning when clean water is already a huge problem in East Africa. Every water source I remember seeing (rivers and streams) had excessive amounts of trash piled up and entangled in broken tree branches. Seeing this was so disconcerting, but it also made me more curious about other Tanzanian towns and how waste disposal works. 

When I arrived in Zanzibar, I didn’t know what to expect trash-wise. Once I left the airport and the close surrounding area, there were open fields full of trash. Not only the open fields, but sidewalks, roads, and small alleyways. The only difference in Zanzibar is that I haven’t seen any waste in the Indian ocean, which makes sense. Although Zanzibar is a tourist island in the middle of the Indian ocean, it still has a severe trash disposal problem.

I wish I were able to get these questions answered while I was in Arusha. I was planning to be there for six weeks, and in that time I planned to interview people in the community. Of course, plans change and adaptability is very important. I will still cover this topic, but it will be in a different way as I won’t have the same opportunity for data collection and in-depth conversations with residents. 

So, Arusha is a large town right below Mt. Meru. It’s about an hour outside of Mt. Kilimanjaro and is very populated. The majority of the roads are dirt and mud, but the majority of cars here have 4WD, so it’s not a problem. The reason I bring up the mud is that of the amount of trash that I saw buried in the mud every day. Arusha is a town at the base of a mountain, so it is almost always rainy, cold, and muddy. It was fascinating to see the amount of trash no matter where we were, colleges, coffee shops, and even official governmental buildings. I didn’t(and still don’t) know to what the amount of litter should be attributed. Is it poor government infrastructure related to trash disposal, lack of recycling options, or something else. 


I’ve only been here in Zanzibar for five days, and I have 30 more to go. Over this next month, I hope to interview the residents about trash disposal on the island and how they feel about it. I will update on this topic in future blog posts once I have more information from the people who live here and participate in waste disposal.

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