Malawi - 3.7 Malawi Waste Management Infrastructure Assessment


Malawi, as many other developing Countries, faces many challenges in the management of waste from generation, collection, transportation, treatment to disposal. Population growth, rapid urbanization, increasing industrialisation, rising incomes and a more sophisticated form of consumerism are leading to an increase in the amount and toxicity of waste, especially in the cities.

 Malawi faces challenges in managing this waste due to inadequate and poor infrastructure, low awareness, limited human, and financial resources as well as poor coordination among stakeholders. It is estimated that on average, waste generation rate is at 0.5kg/person/day (NCST, 2015). The cities of Malawi are challenged by the accumulation of waste due to the rapid increase in the urban population and the limited resources for public service delivery. Most of the waste is generated at household, marketplaces, cities, towns, institutions, and industrial zones. However, there are inadequate statistics on waste generation generally.

Poor waste management poses a threat to public health and the environment. The uncontrolled burning of waste creates particulate and persistent organic pollutant emissions that are highly damaging locally and globally. Accumulated waste and blocked drains encourage vectors to breed, resulting in the spread of malaria, cholera and other infectious diseases and are a major contributing factor to flooding. Uncontrolled dumpsites, and, in particular, the mixing of hazardous and other wastes, can cause disease in neighbouring settlements as well as among waste workers. Poorly managed waste can pollute both surface and groundwater causing toxicity of drinking water and contamination of the ecosystem (Source; National Waste Management Strategy).

Waste Collection and disposal

There is minimal waste segregation at source within the CBD areas, industries, institutions and at household level. This has resulted in mixing of different types of wastes, including hazardous waste. However, there is considerable segregation of healthcare waste.

Local authorities are responsible for the collection of waste. Currently, waste collection is very low at about 30% (LCC Interview) due to factors such as inadequate collection vehicles and financial constraints. In some cities such as Lilongwe, the Council has privatized waste collection and transportation through informal public- private partnership arrangements and the private waste operators dominate collection in residential areas at a fee. Waste collectors obtain consent from city councils to collect waste from designated areas.

Waste transportation is largely rudimentary using open trucks and hand carts, among other methods. These poor transportation modes have led to littering, making wastes such as plastics an eye-sore at the same time a health and environmental hazard. However, there are a few appropriate transportation trucks that operate mainly in the cities.

There are very few waste treatment methods used in the country with the main method being composting for solid waste. Other treatment methods include incineration, biogas, and recycling of materials such as paper, polythene, plastics, glass, scrap metals, used oil, e-waste and waste tyres.

Only about 30% of all waste is collected for disposal and the rest is disposed of indiscriminately. Most households dispose of their waste in rubbish pits. In most cases, households from the selected locations in the cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu dump waste in a pit within the plot or by throwing waste on roadside. 42% dispose in rubbish pits, 11.9% dump on the roadside and 25.4% dump in, empty spaces (EAD 2010). Some private operators who collect waste in residential areas dispose of the waste in areas specifically designated for that purpose by local government authorities, while others dump the waste in open fields or riverbanks.

Waste Management Regulations and Recycling Details

The policy and legal framework for waste management comprises the Constitution, various sectoral policies, Acts, regulations, by-laws, standards, and guidelines. The following are some of the policies and laws that are applicable to waste management.

  1. Environment Management (Chemical and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations 2008

The Regulations apply to any person in Malawi whose undertaking involves or includes the manufacturing, repackaging, importation, exportation, transportation, distribution, sale or other mode of handling toxic substances and chemicals and in respect of any activity in relation to toxic substances and chemicals which involves a risk of harm to human health or the environment. This includes chemical wastes which are defined as any unwanted or waste chemical or chemical formulation generated from any process which can cause danger to both human health and the environment. Local authorities are required to make by-laws for the management of chemicals and toxic substances and chemical wastes in their respective areas of jurisdiction

  1. The Public Health Act, Cap.34:01 of the Laws of Malawi

The Act creates the legal framework for the protection of public health in Malawi and broadly provides for powers of the administration to regulate and control issues such as animal and food production and handling, food and water supply and sewerage. Part IX deals with sanitation and housing and contains provisions prohibiting nuisances.

  1. The Local Government Act, Cap. 22:01 of the Laws of   Malawi

The Act implements the aspirations contained in the Decentralization Policy. It       provides that a District Council shall establish various service committees including a committee on Health and the Environment.

  1. Malawi Bureau of Standards Act, Cap 51:02 of the Laws of Malawi

The Ministry of Industry and Trade through the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) is                 responsible for the administration of the Act. The MBS has the authority to establish and             implement standards.

Institutional Arrangements

Malawi has put in place institutional arrangements to deal with waste management.  The Environmental Affairs Department (EAD) under the Environment Management Act is mandated to coordinate the management of the environment including issues relating to waste. However, specific responsibilities for waste management lie with various sectoral institutions which are mandated by sectoral legislation.

The table below summarizes the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders for waste management.


Institution/ Sector /Entity



Contact Information

Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining

Provide policy guidance and direction on all matters concerning Malawi’s natural resources, energy, and environmental management through the Environmental Affairs Department

Coordinate the management of the environment including issues relating to waste management

Environment Management Act

Physical Location; 2nd Floor, Capital House, City Centre, Lilongwe.

Physical Address; Ministry of Energy, Private Bag 309, Lilongwe 3, Malawi.

Telephone: +265 1 770 688

Fax; +265 1 770 094/771954


Environment Affairs Department


Environment Management Act,

Environment Management (Waste Management and Sanitation) Regulations

Physical address; bag 394, Lilongwe, Malawi.

Phone; 01 771 111

Fax; 01 751 685.

Pesticides Control Board


Protection against particular hazards arising from the use of pesticides


Pesticides Act


Physical address; The registrar, Pesticides Control Board, P.O. Box 51300, Limbe

Telephone: +265 997 967 203/ 0887 030 517


Ministry of Industry and Trade

Promotion of both internal and external trade

Control of Goods Act,

Physical address; Gemini House, City Centre, Lilongwe.

Postal Address; P.O. Box 30366, City Centre, Lilongwe.

Telephone; +265 1 770 244

Fax; +265 1 770 614


Ministry of Health

Provision of preventive health and medical services

Public Health Act


Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development

To further the constitutional order based on democratic principles, accountability, objectives of local transparency and participation of the people in decision-making and development processes

Local Government Act, and waste bylaws

- Environment Management (Hazardous Waste) Regulations:

Environment Management (Chemicals and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations, Public Health Act,

Postal address; P.O. Box 30377, Lilongwe, Malawi

Phone; +265 1 789 400

Fax; +265 1 789 534/789536

Email: info@daniel-pc.localhost

Malawi      Bureau of  Standards

Promote standardization of commodities and of their manufacture,                                    production, processing or treatment; and further to provide for matters incidental to, or connected with standardization

Malawi Bureau of Standards   Act

Postal address; Ali Hassan Mwinyi road, P.O. Box 946, Blantyre, Malawi.

Telephone; +265 1 870 488

Fax; +265 1 870 756


Businesses/ Industry


Environment Management Act,

Environment Management (Waste Management and Sanitation) Regulations

Environment Management (Chemicals and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations,

Public Health Act


Medical facilities


Environment Management Act,

Environment Management (Waste Management and Sanitation) Regulations

Environment Management (Chemicals and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations,


Public Health Act

Council bylaws


Waste Disposal Sites/Plants


Public Health Act,   Council by-laws




Occupational Safety and Health Act,


Environment Management Act,


Environment Management (Waste Management and Sanitation) Regulations


Environment Management (Chemicals and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations,


Pesticides Act


The public


Environment                           Management Act



Environment Management (Hazardous                                     Waste) Regulations



Environment Management (Chemicals and Toxic Substances Management) Regulations



Water Resources Act



Fisheries Conservation and Management Act

Pesticides Act Council by-laws

































































































Authorized Waste Management Service Providers

Municipal Authorities are mandated to manage the solid waste generated within their jurisdiction, but this responsibility can be shared with private companies through PPP whereby the city can delegate some of its services to private companies as in the case of the Lilongwe City Council.

Landfills/Waste Disposal Sites in Malawi

The sites for waste disposal in the Country are located at 5 miles in Zomba City, Area 38 in Lilongwe City, Mzedi in Blantyre City, Nsilo in Mzuzu City and Katili in Karonga among others. The municipal authorities manage their respective site. Due to poor or lack of management of the sites, no proper records are kept. For example, information or records on matters such as type and weight of waste are non-existent. In addition, most of the workforce operating these disposal sites have minimal or no training on how to safely manage these facilities. Only Katili in Karonga and Nsilo in Mzuzu are fenced and protected, the rest give access to scavengers who normally disrupt the sound management of the sites.

Recycling Programmes

At a Country Level there is no substantial data regarding existing recycling programmes and facilities. But in the case of Lilongwe City recycling is being done formally by the Lilongwe City Council through Waste Transfer Stations and by identified Recycling Companies, and informally by scavengers usually found at the Area 38 Dumpsite.

Currently, Lilongwe City Council recognizes 6 Waste Transfer Stations (located at Area 25, Kauma, Area 13, Chinsapo, Kawale 1 and Area 24) and 18 Recycling companies (attached).

Waste Management legislation and Operational Challenges

At both National and regional level there are the following legislation; The Constitution of Malawi, Environmental Management Regulations (2008), The Public Health Act, The Local Government Act (2017) and the Malawi Bureau of Standards Act. At Local Level, as far as Lilongwe City is concerned, there is the Solid Waste Management city by-laws, Policy and Institutional Framework for Integrated and Sustainable Solid Waste Management for the Lilongwe City Council (2017) and Private Waste Operators guidelines on Management of Liquid and Solid Waste (2017).

The main challenges as far as solid waste management is concerned include; Weak and outdated legislation, Lack of enforcement of existing laws and regulations, Lack of resources (Financial, human), Few and outdated working tools/Equipment, Low level of public participation on solid waste management issues/activities, Low level of community sensitization and awareness on proper solid waste management at individual level, household level and community level, etc.

Hazardous Waste Disposal

In general, Hazardous waste is disposed at designated locations by responsible authorities. As far as Hazardous Waste Disposal in Lilongwe City is concerned, The Lilongwe City Council only permit industrial toxic/ hazardous/Nob-biodegradable waste to be disposed of at the Area 38 dumpsite. This includes oils, petrol and lubricants. Medical Waste in not allowed to be disposed of at the dumpsite instead it is incinerated in the available medical facilities/hospital incinerators in the city.

As far as E-waste, including air conditioners and refrigerators, disposal is concerned there are no existing by-laws  on the matter but it is heavily discouraged to dispose the E-Waste at the disposal site.

The Lilongwe City Council has Waste destruction and disposal procedures that ensure that hazardous waste is properly disposed of so as to cause minimum environmental damage as possible. The disposal methods range from burying to open burning of the waste.

Non-Hazardous Waste Disposal

In general, non-hazardous waste is disposed at designated locations in all cities and  towns. For Lilongwe City, Municipal non-harzadous waste is disposed of through open dumping at the area 38 dumpsite. Non-harzadous Waste (domestic, commercial, institutional, rubble, etc.) from areas and usually unsegregated is collected and disposed of at the area 38 dumpsite. There are dumpsite attendants at the site which guide waste collection vehicles to the proper disposal area. Some of this waste is collected and transported to Waste Transfer Stations for recycling and reusing purposes.

Most households, especially in informal settlements, dispose of their waste in open spaces, on riverbanks, and along roadsides. Most waste is burned (creating greenhouse gases) or is dumped in open pits or spaces. Our 2017 baseline calculated that only 8.7% of all generated waste is collected; though, our current estimate is that about 120 tons/day, or 22% of the waste generated is collected. The rate is much less than most other major African cities. Waste collection problems confront the city at every step of the chain.  The solid waste dump site for Lilongwe City is not a proper landfill. It has the potential to cause environment and health problems. During rainy season leached waste is likely to infiltrate our ground water causing water and soil pollution. Heavy winds may also blow away waste, causing air pollution. The site is overwhelmed by scavengers, who are virtually unregulated and the site is not paved making it difficult for waste delivery vehicles to reach specific places during the rainy season.

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