The Zero Waste Model

Waste (Mis)Management in Dar es Salaam

A city like Dar es Salaam officially produces over 5,600 tons of waste each day. Less than 40% of the waste is collected, most of it is mixed and ends up in one location – an unsanitary dump site. The rest is burned, buried, or dumped illegally, often clogging waterways, contaminating soil, and increasing urban air pollution.

This reality is not unique to Dar es Salaam and repeats itself in all of Tanzania, including mainland and Zanzibar.

The zero waste model aims to eliminate through reduction, reuse, recycling, and recovery without burning, incinerating, or discharging to land, rivers or oceans. The basic principle is that, if a community cannot reuse, repair, recycle or compost a product, the industry should not make that product in the first place.

The zero Waste Model is a decentralized approach in which the management of solid waste starts with segregation at source at the household level. 


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< 40% of households are estimated to have access to waste collection in Dar es Salaam

< Regions like Arusha and Zanzibar suffer from excessive volumes of waste reaching their sanitary landfills, reducing their expected life spans.

< Rural Tanzania has no access to waste collection

What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. (ZWIA, 2018)  

Beyond the definition, Zero Waste is as much as conserving resources as a goal towards environmental and social justice and regeneration, equity and respect for nature. 

The Zero Waste model enforces waste segregation at the source into four categories: Organic, Recyclable, Domestic Hazardous, and Residual. The heart of the model is the Zero Waste Cooperatives, which collect waste from households to a decentralized Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where waste is stored and managed. The Zero Waste Cooperatives are responsible for community education, door-to-door collection and waste management. Collection of segregated waste at the source is done on a daily basis by the Waste Collectors using well-designed and easy-to-use Waste Carts.

How does Zero Waste work?

Zero Waste is a community-based model run by Zero Waste Cooperatives from a particular area. The cooperatives are formed by Waste Pickers, women and Youth.

Waste collection fees, income from recyclables, maggot farming, composting and urban farming are some of the income-generating processes within the Zero Waste model.

Education on waste separation at source enforces the fact that not all waste is the same. Consistency data keeping details waste profiles and composition and informs policy advocacy.

The model cultivates partnership and social inclusion.

Why Zero Waste Model?


The zero waste model is considerably cheaper than traditional waste management systems, achieving 100% waste collection with less than 15% of the estimated budget for each neighborhood.


The Zero Waste model creates more and better jobs, allowing marginalized community members to regain their social role within their community and creating a chain of direct and indirect meaningful jobs.


The zero waste model aims to minimize the generation of waste and maximize the reuse, recycling, and composting of materials, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the climate balance. By diverting between 70-85% of the waste from landfills and incineration, the zero waste mitigates environmental impacts.


The zero waste model promotes equitable and inclusive solutions that address the environmental and social impacts of waste mismanagement and promotes a just transition from a harmful linear economy to a safe and toxic-free circular economy.

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Compliance to Segregation at Source


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Waste fee collection App and Monitoring System

Innovation : Waste fee collection App

A waste fee collection app was developed to increase transparency and accountability in fee collection. When a payment is confirmed on the app, customers receive SMS receipts on their phones.

Waste Collectors Capacity Building

Zero Waste Cooperative members are trained to utilize the app, to keep detailed records of zero waste operations, to manage the cooperative finances and to promote zero waste.

Transparency and efficiency in fee collection

A frequent misconception when it comes to waste management in low-income neighbourhoods is that inhabitants are not willing to pay waste management fees.  Most low-income households pay for waste management, several times for an illegal collector to dump waste in an illegal dumpsite. The Zero Waste model redirects the money to a healthy waste management stream that benefits the community and the environment.

Material Recovery Facility (MRF)

The MRF is decentralized storage facility where all the segregated waste is kept. Each category of waste is kept separately enabling recycling and composting. Some of the MRFs also have a session for maggot farming and urban agriculture.

Main Components of the MRF

The MRF serves as a community center where alongside waste segregation and storage, communities can learn about regenerative waste management.  There are four components of an MRF: sorting, composting, storage and education.

How Does Zero Waste Mitigate Climate Change?

Avoided landfill methane

With organic waste diversion and management, zero waste implementation can reduce methane emissions by as much as 95% by 2030.

GHG reduction from recycling and waste avoidance

For energy-intensive materials, such as metals, the reduction can be as high as 96% of the emissions associated with producing the original product.

Soil carbon storage from organics

Compost has the potential to increase the carbon stored in soils. Compost is a carbon-rich soil amendment; when applied to soil, it stimulates myriad biological processes that result in a portion of the carbon being emitted as CO2 and a portion stored in the soil and below-ground biomass.

Prevent Harmful Practices

Zero Waste reduces the reliance on fossil fuels that release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. It prioritizes the zero waste hierarchy with waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting,