30 year celebration of WASTE

7th of July was a special day for WASTE: our 30th anniversary. A good moment to celebrate and reflect.

The story starts in 1975. On Kenyan soils, Dutch development worker Jaap Rijnsburger, ran into Arnold van der Klundert. In the political spirit of these days, under African skies, the two friends discuss ideas of ‘democratising technology’ or in other words: developing technologies that will allow communities to take care of themselves. They discussed rope-pumps, water-ram, making instruction packages with pictorials.

Back in the Netherlands, Arnold meets with Krisno Nimpuno of IHS who notes: ‘many toilets have been built in the city, and now they need to be emptied’. At the same time Undugu Kenya asks: ‘in Asia and the Middle East recycling is an issue, can you help us to do this?’ This is the sign, it is time for WASTE.

In 1983, WASTE is founded on an attic in Gouda. The first assignment was to look at working conditions in the palm-oil business, from there the work moved on towards equipment for pit emptying, MAPET and COMPET. Both projects included participatory approach and job creation in urban services. Over the years, while number and size of the projects is growing, new people come aboard. The culture remains socialistic and democratic. Socialistic: WASTE helps others to grow and prosper; not ourselves.  And (very) democratic: everyone’s opinion counts. Curious detail: for a short time, every staff member could set their own salary.

The bigger projects in particular UWEP and UWEP plus resulted in many studies around solid waste management in urban areas and were essential for the development of our methodologies such as Integrated Sustainable Waste Management. In 2000, WASTE incorporated sanitation in their work as they saw enough overlap with solid waste management. And the recent big programmes, such as ISSUE, SPA and FINISH enabled again a deepening of our ideas around the themes solid waste and sanitation, but even more in our approach, which has been shifting towards support of local business development and involvement of local financing facilities.

Now it is 2013. Even though the staff now counts 17 people, main principles of the old days are still valid in WASTE; there is still a strong spirit that we do not exist for ourselves. In fact, we welcome the day that WASTE is no longer needed. That is the day that cities, villages, communities in Southern countries are able to clean their own environment, using (paid) services of people.

What is beyond 2013? Our day of success, the day that our services are no longer needed and we can close, has not yet arrived. What we do notice is that our approach and methodologies to support communities to become self-sustainable are being recognized. A few examples of current projects we are proud of and that clearly communicate our key-message to our partners in the Southern Countries:

  1. The FINISH program, whereby financial institutions (microfinance, insurance) play a key role in marketing sanitation. This program started in India and is now expanding to Africa.
  2. The ISSUE and SPA programmes, with a focus on market development in solid waste and sanitation and whereby the involvement of local financing institutions is key.
  3. The studies on solid waste management practices, for GIZ, UN Habitat and WIEGO, making it clear that already recycling is already happening albeit informally and small scale, and in need of support for business development
  4. SAWI - with partner Aqua for All, WASTE set up a ‘Sanitation Window’, with the objective to boost innovation in sanitation markets in Southern countries by matching Dutch / European know-how (businesses) with demand and markets in our partner countries.