Circular economy and its actors: an integral and sustainable approach of municipal solid waste management in Cameroon

Against the “use and throw away” logic, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger through circular economy

by Michèle Lameu Djeutchouang


Unsustainable waste management is disastrous for people and environmental development globally. The growth in waste generation in Africa is expected to be so significant, that any decrease in waste generation in other regions globally will be overshadowed by Africa (Africa Waste management outlook 2018). The average Municipal waste collection services in most African countries is only 55% while the disposal rate is 9O% in uncontrolled landfills where the prevailing waste treatment is open burning.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and Cameroon particularly, this waste mismanagement is partly attributed to the fast-growing population and the change in consumption habits to a throw-away culture. However, from the composition of discarded waste in the region, an estimate of 70-80% of produced waste is resourceful or recyclable. Only about 4% of this waste is recycled, mostly by a handful often unrecognized actors mostly characterized by poverty and unemployment conditions. It follows suit that this highly polluted spaces and wasteful production and consumption habit is also a result of the prevailing linear economic model (take-use-throw model) still perpetrated in most African cities, doing no justice to the human person nor to the human environment.

In developed countries, Circular Economy (CE) has taken firm grounds in policy measures. It is an economic model which seeks to maintain resources in circulation for the longest time possible, and maintaining the quality of utility derived at each stage.

Based on three principles:

  1. Limit the use of natural resources in the production process or in the maintenance of the product life cycle.
  2. Extend the product life cycle through eco-conception.
  3. Increase the efficiency of the economic systems by reducing negative externalities and transforming waste into resources.

CE therefore seems to be an interesting model which provides an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded and at the same time protecting nature.

Inspired by the Economy of Francesco principles, this research project suggests analyzing these issues from the point of view of the poorest and most vulnerable actors of waste collection and recycling. Hence we seek to do a diagnosis of the waste management practices which reveals CE processes in this region. Secondly, we seek to identify the informal actors of waste management who contribute to these circular economy principles and if possible establish a categorization of these actors. We are particularly interested in those at the grassroots of the chain whose cry is sensitive to the cry of the earth through circular economic processes. Finally, we seek to identify some issues faced by these actors and present a concrete proposal as a contribution to leverage their practices.

For our research purpose, we engage in a community based approach with actors of CE. Through a documentary research, direct observation during field work, semi structured interviews and a survey, we aim to better understand how Circular Economy is practiced in the three major cities of Cameroon.


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Michèle Lameu Djeutchouang

Economy of Francesco Academy Research Fellow 2023/2024

Religious of the Institut Id of Christ the Redeemer, Idente Missionaries

Masters in Environmental Management and sustainable development from the International Relations Institute of Cameroon

[email protected]