A qualitative assessment of solid waste management in Peleng township in Lobatse, Botswana considering spatial aspects


Even though solid waste management is widely researched, there is scanty literature addressing the influence of physical environmental attributes on solid waste management service provision in informal settlements. The aim of this study was to investigate the nexus between physical infrastructural planning and waste management service. To obtain relevant results, this study used the case study of Peleng township in Botswana. The study relied on empirical data collected from 91 randomly selected households. ArcGIS was used for mapping 550 purposively selected households, and for visualization of the physical infrastructure. This study concluded that the community is at the forefront of dealing with waste problems in their settlement. However, their interventions have fallen short of becoming profitable and sustainable due to a failure of the government to integrate solid waste management into mainstream urban development planning. The findings revealed that there is minimal government intervention for improved solid waste management in the area. It recommends that adequate attention must be given to road infrastructure and physical developments in order solid waste management in Peleng, Lobatse.


Management of solid waste is a global issue and is of concern to every urban resident in both formal and informal settlements [1]. The management of solid waste results in enormous expenditure challenges, especially in developing countries [2]. This is compounded by the fact that it is not only a technical problem but a phenomenon surrounded by complex factors among them being political, legal, socio-cultural, environmental and economic [3]. Developing countries where urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth due to natural increase and rural–urban migration often lack the resources and institutional capacity, to provide adequate solid waste management services [4].

Literature has shown that inefficiency tendencies such as irregular and low solid waste collection, illegal dumping and burning of domestic waste, impede sustainable waste management systems [5, 6]. In fact, statistics have shown that about two billion people in the world have no regular access to solid waste collection service [7]. This is despite the fact that solid waste collection cost accounts for 70–80% of total costs for solid waste management in most developing countries [8]. There are limited financial capacities by governments and low priorities assigned to solid waste management services [9].

Studies have alluded that the functionality of a solid waste management service is largely contingent on how well the services adapt to the social, economic, environmental and political context of a city or a country [9, 10]. Of all the factors found to be challenging solid waste management, there is limited research investigating the influence of environmental or physical factors on solid waste management, particularly in informal settlements. This study is focused on Peleng township in Lobatse, Botswana. Peleng is a historical informal township in Lobatse which faces environmental problems such as illegal dumping and burning of waste. This is a common sight within the haphazardly scattered neighborhood with dilapidated household structures. Equally so, there are poor drainages systems, inaccessible households and a physical manifestation of waste and other consequent development problems in the Peleng township, which have a negative impact on public health, the environment, as well as on service provision for such a place.

This study aims to spatially demonstrate how infrastructure in informal settlements challenges the provision of waste management services. It also aims to assess how communities have adapted to available solid waste service provision, and, to identify waste governance gaps that impede solid waste collection services. This study seeks to provide empirically informed answers to address the existing research gap on the influence of physical environmental attributed to solid waste management provision in informal settlements. It aims to inform the design and planning of solid waste management by highlighting alternative approaches on how to improve solid waste management in informal settlements. In the following section, the urbanization-unsustainable solid waste management nexus in informal cities is presented. Then, the methodology and materials used for this study are described. Finally, the results and discussion sections are presented, as well as the conclusion and recommendations of the study.

The urbanization-unsustainable solid waste management nexus in informal cities

While waste management is a global problem, the situation is worse and continues to deteriorate especially in urban areas in developing countries [1, 6, 11]. Solid waste management is a broad and highly researched area among various scholars [1, 4, 10, 12, 13] who emphasize that an effective and efficient solid waste management is vital for preventing environmental and health hazards which have harmful consequences to the communities and the ecosystem.

Global development trends substantially shape today’s temporal and spatial manifestations of urban areas [14]. Consequently, rapid uncontrolled and unplanned urbanization in developing countries brings untoward hostile effects of environmental degradation [1, 15, 16]. Informal settlements, shanty towns or townships mainly in the global South, face severe health consequences and environmental impacts as a result of ineffective solid waste management [16]. Studies done by Zapata Campos and Zapata [17] in Managua, Nicaragua, Gutberlet et al. [16] in Kumasi, Kenya, and by Omollo [18] in Eldoret, Kenya, revealed that informal cities in the global south are limited by fragmented and uncollected waste due to poor land-use planning, inadequate finances and inadequate planning capacity by authorities.

Whereas in the formal settlements waste is regularly collected, problems of waste management in informal settlements are different and more severe in developing countries [5]. Previous research done in global developing regions emphasize that inefficient sewage systems, filthy streets, illegal dumping and non-existent solid waste collection form a crisis in informal areas with primarily inadequate infrastructure [19]. The haphazard expansion of informal settlements has been noted as one of the recurring problems in especially in developing countries, which causes unnecessary costs for the provision of basic infrastructure such as roads, water mains, and sewer and drainage pipes in existing networks [5, 20]. Informal settlements commonly have a random layout of houses and constitute of crowded communities with a lack of awareness of dangers to health presented by accumulation of waste [5, 14].

Like most developing countries, the solid waste management process is a challenge for local authorities in Botswana. This inefficiency is exacerbated by inadequate equipment, personnel as well as financial resources [21]. Considering the Sustainable Development goal No.11 that emphasizes the creation of sustainable cities and communities using a management that is both participatory and inclusive, urban planning in developing countries has nonetheless become increasingly exclusive of the physical and social nature of informal settlements. Optimized planning in the collection and disposal of waste are also seen as vital in curbing total costs and improving health, through reducing the number of required waste collection vehicles and determining the optimal routes [22]. Other methodologies have further developed mathematical models such as Mixed Integer linear Programming (MILP) to minimize the costs of uncollected wastes, transportation and pollution [23].

It has been argued that uncontrolled urbanization and poor planning are responsible for many problems experienced by urban centers nowadays, resulting in the substandard living environment, acute problems of drinking water pollution, unsafe disposal of waste and traffic congestion [24]. In fact, only a few city governments recognize the importance of improved infrastructure for supporting the diverse and largely populated informal communities [25]. Tan et al. [26] observe that a poorly planned urban expansion leads to inefficient service provision and environmental pollution. The inaccessibility of houses and inadequate infrastructure in informal settlements furthermore poses threats to public health and urban environmental upkeep [17]. Studies investigating the physical attributes of informal settlements in relation to solid waste management service provision are generally unknown in Botswana, and these are factors that necessitate the current study.

Methods and materials

Description of the study area

Lobatse is an expatriate-initiated town located approximately 70 km south of Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. It is surrounded by hills, leaving 46% of it is unsuitable for urban development [20], with an oddity of the spatial distribution of households across its limited space (Fig. 1). It has a population size of about 29,007 [27]. Peleng was the first and oldest settlement in Lobatse, established as a crowded squatter camp by Africans who were then restricted from living in areas reserved for European settlements [20]. Peleng township is the most populated area in Lobatse, and pollution is reported by key informants to be the largest in this locality.

Fig. 1

(Source: Designed by the first author)

Map showing the location of Peleng Township in Lobatse

Urban characteristics

Road infrastructure in Peleng township is mainly made up of untarred roads, comprising gravel and concrete slab pavements especially on areas on high elevations, and on the steepest locations (e.g., building with one or more floors), which substantially influence the density and the necessity of the service provision.

Data collection and sampling criterion

This study used a mixed-method research design, by using a qualitative approach vis-à-vis a Geographic Information System (GIS) map-based analysis. These methods together present a mapping and visualization capacity as well as a narrative explanation of the solid waste management system of the town. Using a spatial analysis, waste management challenges are presented using the physical properties of the topographically vulnerable town, to compliment the findings of empirical findings. With its unique physical properties, the south side of the hillslope was selected using a purposive sampling method. Purposive sampling, also known as judgmental sampling, is a nonrandom sampling in which the researcher solicits individuals with certain characteristics to participate in a study [28]. This study targeted households that spread across both the gentle and the steepest slope, from which households both tarred and untarred road accessibility were selected and digitized. A total of 550 households on the southern side of Peleng township were mapped using GoogleEarth images (2017) and then georeferenced to define the location using map coordinates and assigned a coordinate system on ArcMap. Various land cover/use was digitized as seen on the images (e.g., roads, railroad, built-up area, etc.). Since solid waste management parameters such as transportation networks and location of households are essential to this study, they were mapped.

Using a purposive sampling technique based on knowledge and expertise, key informant interviewees were selected from officials from the Lobatse Town Council, Department of Waste Management and Sanitation, and Ward Development Committees. Key informant interviews give information that otherwise could be deemed confidential, helping to even extract more information from respondents through probing [29]. Three senior officials at the Department of Waste Management and Sanitation, Lobatse Town Council, and two Ward Development Committee Chairpersons were interviewed face-to-face to solicit their perceptions, experiences and judgements on environmental problems affecting Peleng, and Lobatse, the solid waste management service provision, strategies as well as solid waste management practices in Peleng.

A structured questionnaire and an interview guide were used to collect primary data from households. A structured questionnaire allows for research to study large numbers of people whose results are representative of a much wider population and could be generalized [30]. Out of the 550 mapped households from Peleng, the study used a simple random sampling method to administer survey questionnaires to 91 households, to ensure a representation of households and to substantiate the spatial data. Data saturation was reached with the 91st respondent. The study used the plot number list of Lobatse households derived from enumeration maps. The one on one interviews were administered to households that spread across both the gentle and the steepest slope in September/October 2016.

ArcGIS application

The study utilized ArcGIS because of its visualization capacity, to map and capture the spatial context of households in Peleng. ArcGIS is a software designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or geographic data. GIS applications allowed for the creation of spatial data sets, to create interactive queries, analyze spatial information, edit data in maps. ArcGIS was then used to visualize the results of all these operations using transportation networks and location of households. The study utilized ArcGIS as below.

Integration of three ArcGIS applications

ArcMap, ArcCatalog and Arc Toolbox were integrated for displaying, querying and editing, creating and analyzing ArcGIS data. ArcCatalog organized and managed all ArcGIS data, where ArcCatalog tools were used for finding geographic information and defining the structure for geographic data layers. ArcToolbox provided necessary tools for conversion of data, managing coordinate systems, as well as changing map projections.

GIS query and distance analysis

Analysis of spatial data was based on distance analysis. Spatial data was queried using ArcGIS select by location analysis to find out the location and accessibility of households to road infrastructure so that the interaction between multiple data sets, (roads and households) was visualised. The interaction between household location, distances and accessibility of households by solid waste collectors was also assessed. These selections ensured the selection of houses which have access to the road infrastructure, leaving out those with no access to reveal the relationship between inadequate physical infrastructural planning and poor waste management practices.

Data analysis

Qualitative data such as environmental problems and the rate of their challenges in Peleng, current solid waste management practices, efficiencies of solid waste collection services, and solid waste management strategies, were analyzed systematically. The data were analysed through sorting, organising and cleaning, thereafter, coding it into recurrent themes. It was then thematically arranged into patterns of similarity, summarised and reported as textual data in accordance with the Braun and Clarke [31] thematic analysis approach.

Digital terrain analysis

Digital Terrain Analysis was applied to the data to create a three-dimensional digital elevation model of maps, to show the distribution of households across the slopes. A digital terrain analysis allowed for interpolation from point data (usually elevations), derivation of slopes and slope aspects. These physical attributes of varying topographic surfaces of Peleng give the power to relate the data to real-world elevations and analyze how these varied surfaces might affect solid waste collection.

Results and discussion

Description of the physical environment and urban characteristics

Peleng Township is the largest ward in Lobatse, located on the hill slope, east of the town, with non-uniformly planned households stretching across an uneven topographic hill slope. There is poor urban infrastructure in this locality, characterized by lack of access to sanitation, poor roads, poor drainage, haphazard expansion of households across a hill slope, which raises questions about sustainable urban planning and management. All residential structures are one-floor houses, with incomplete household structures and dilapidated house structures in some places. The physical environmental conditions of this locality are manifested by a majority of dilapidated buildings and structures, low-quality housing, large household sizes, and structures with limited access to basic social services such as water and electricity, which substantially influence the density and the necessity of the service provision.

Generally, the households become more inaccessible when ascending the hill slope, whilst houses at the foot of the slope have access to tarred roads. The roads in the township have been classified into two categories as per their type and width: tarred and untarred. The majority (61%) of households mapped in the study lacked access to tarred roads, while 39% of households had a connection to tarred roads. The roads (tarred and untarred) in between houses are very narrow when ascending the hill, due to inaccessibility of houses. There are untarred roads of gravel and pavements especially on areas on high and steepest locations. Information gathered from ground-truthing showed that there are narrow paved roads of poor quality, which are cracked and bumpy with potholes.

Stakeholders’ perspectives of environmental concerns

According to a Ward Development Committee Chairperson interviewed, the crucial environmental concerns in Peleng are illegal dumping of household waste, and dirty streets. About 95% of the households from the survey rated uncollected rubbish heaps in the community as the highest environmental concern in Peleng, which they reported, can remain uncollected for a month without collection. About 87% of the households interviewed, also rated dirty streets as a high environmental concern in the locality (see Fig. 2). The undesirable nature of solid waste in streets and alleys was reported to be amplified by their lack of dustbins for disposal of waste, as well as scavengers which scatter waste around.

Fig. 2

Household ratings on environmental problems and their level of impact in Lobatse

About 90% of households from the survey reported that they faced a challenge of baboons, cows and dog scavengers from farms located at the hilltop (Fig. 2). The households explained that these animals savage and scatter solid waste from waste bins within households, and from illegal waste heaps in the around the community. These activities occur during the night, as herds of livestock move from farms and kraals at the hilltop and trip off their bins (especially in unfenced yards) on their way to water points (Peleng River), which are situated at the foot of the hill. They reported that they have reported these problems with the Lobatse Town Council limitless times, and the problems are yet to be addressed and a solution is still yet to be found. Problems of scattered wastes exacerbate the visible physical manifestation of solid waste such as food remains, plastics, boxes, tin cans, glasses and bottles on the streets and alleys in the locality. Uncontrolled waste on the surroundings is reported to have a bearing on the obstruction of surface runoff, which leads to the formation of stagnant water bodies that become breeding homes for bacterial diseases [32]. Previous studies have also highlighted that stagnant water bodies can cause undesirable odor and pollute soil and underground water [33].

About 44% of the households interviewed in the survey rated illegal dumping of waste on alleys to be a high impact problem on the environment, while 34% reported its impact to be low/minimal, and 22% reported it as an absent environmental problem (Fig. 2). Households alluded these mixed ratings to the fact that since the Government of Botswana established community oversees known as “Green Scorpions”, residents no longer dump a lot of waste on alleys, especially in areas that are on the lower levels of the hill slope. The green scorpions are hired on a temporary basis by the Town Council under the poverty eradication programmes, to ensure a clean, safe environment, under the supervision of the Ward Development Committees. They oversee in the community and are empowered to effect penalty charges to individuals who may be caught mishandling waste. The Ward Development Committee Chairpersons also alluded that even though the green scropions are semi-skilled part-time employees, with short contracts (usually 3–6 months), there are notable physical and visual improvements of solid waste pollution and sanitation in the locality since their establishment.

Solid waste collection services

Solid waste collection is the current priority of Lobatse Town Council, and one of the services which the Town Council provides to the residents of Lobatse [34]. Solid waste bins which comprises of 200 L drums are purchased and provided for free by the Town Council to the residents. The solid waste bins are placed by the gate of each household, and a waste pick up, compactor truck with labourers from the Town Council is supposed to make collection rounds atleast every 3.5 days in a week. Waste is supposed to be picked from all households and disposed at the landfill, which is located about 15 km from the town. According to the Town Council officials, there is no formal form of collection pattern or route established for collection.

One key informant from the Town Council reported that in 2014, solid waste collection function was outsourced to private companies on short contracts to alleviate challenges of continuous fleet break down that was experienced by the Council. Nevertheless, the one-year contract offered to a private company in 2014 was not renewed at the beginning of 2015 owing to budgetary constraints faced by the Lobatse Town Council. Consequently, the Council has the mandate to collect household solid waste in Peleng Ward, even though the continuous fleet break down is still not uncommon. For instance, one of the key informants within the Department of waste management had this to say at the time of the interview, “the entire town of Lobatse is serviced with only two vehicles, while seven are broken down and awaiting repairs”.

One of the key informants, the Chairperson of the Ward Development Committee, mentioned that solid waste is collected from each household. In that regard, about 95% of the households described the waste collection system as generally insufficient and inconsistent. From these, most households (36%) reported that they only receive solid waste collection services once in two weeks, while 27% reported that they sometimes take up to a month without collection (Table 1). Some households (17%) reported that there was no collection at all since waste collection compactors utilize main accessible roads for collection (see Table 1). Only 6% of households reported that they received solid waste collection twice a week, and these were households that are located at the foot of the hill, which have access to tarred road infrastructure. It has been argued that such problems as insufficient solid waste collection, inconsistencies and delays of solid waste collection often hinder a successful waste management [33] and deteriorate environmental quality in Botswana [35].

Table 1 Frequencies of solid waste collection by the Lobatse Town Council as reported by Households

When asked about the efficiency of collection services versus their satisfaction, about 87% of households reported that they were not satisfied with solid waste management service provision in Peleng township. The key informant from Lobatse Town Council concurred with these views in favor of the household responses, by saying;

“Even though the standard frequency of solid waste collection at residential areas in Botswana towns is every 3.5 days per week, collection in this locality is, however, dependent on the availability of compactor vehicles due to financial constraints and frequent breakdowns of the fleet of waste collection vehicles”.

Solid waste management practices

There are commonly poor household solid waste management practices in this township, proliferated by high poverty rate and low socio-economic status of most residents. Town Council officials reported that there is persistent mishandling of solid waste at households as a result of the mismanagement of storage bins that the Lobatse Town Council donates freely to households, each year. During the interview, the majority (85%) of the households did not have solid waste bins for solid waste disposal. The households reported that the absence of solid waste bins was due to either dilapidation or destruction by animal scavengers. As a result, household respondents (82%) reported that the lack of solid waste bins at households, and the high inconsistencies of solid waste collection in the township aggravates the rate of illegal solid waste burning particularly at households located at the hilltops. These households reported that under the circumstances, they habitually opt for littering, burying, burning and illegal dumping of solid waste in the streets or in the forests near-by, as the cheapest and only available alternatives for disposing of solid waste.

According to the Town Council officials, the lack of waste bins at households is caused by the lack of care given to them by the residents. They highlighted that there is also a lack of segregation of solid waste at households prior to collection, which contributes to dilapidation and mismanagement of waste bins before their replacement time. While solid waste separation/segregation is not yet a lawful requirement for households in Botswana, the challenge is that households in this locality dispose of other mixed types of wastes that are not desirable for solid waste bins (nappies, tree branches, sweepings and cuttings, hot ash from firewood) into the solid waste bins allocated to them. This was reported to dilapidate the base material of waste bins and corrodes them before their expected duration elapses. The Town Council reported that it had been a long time since they distributed waste bins at households due to the challenge of lack of finances to purchase new ones. The above-noted findings are relatable to Oteng-Ababio et al. [37] and Asibey et al. [38] who argued that solid waste management in poor urban townships is inefficient because of unavailable waste disposal areas, unavailable refuse collection equipment and the high cost of disposal which results in open dumping, burying and burning of waste in most townships.

Despite the allegations by the Town Council officials that there are generally poor waste management practices and handling at households, all households demonstrated an impeccable awareness of the impacts of solid waste on their health and the environment. In fact, about 85% of the household respondents in this area belonged to community solid waste management programs such as litter picking campaigns and cluster groups locally known as ‘environmental watchdogs’, through which they have become environmental stewards of their locality. However, they reported that their efforts were often hindered by lack of service provision and interventions to specifically address the physical vulnerability of their location.

The establishment of community cluster groups (whose job is to ensure a clean environment under the supervision of Ward Development Committees) helped the Ward Development committees to hold accountable, the individuals who did not cooperate in environmental upkeep in the town. Cluster groups work with the Lobatse Town Council to educate community members about the handling of solid waste and are empowered to effect penalty charges from council byelaws on residents who are caught dumping waste on the streets. However, households highlighted that the byelaws were not well enforced because certain residents illegally dump waste at night when no one is there to apprehend those who default. Furthermore, the cluster groups are either volunteered or semi-skilled part time employees who are not well trained to offer environmental education to households, therefore their limited workforce requires human resource from Council.

The infrastructure, household accessibility and solid waste collection nexus

To analyze the influence of infrastructure on waste management services, particularly collection, spatial data was queried using select by location function in ArcGIS, to investigate location and accessibility of households to road infrastructure (Fig. 3 below). The selection was based on households located within the distances of 10 m, 15 m and 20 m selection away from the tarred road, in view of the requirements of the minimum distance of households from roads in urban areas in Botswana. The relationship of road accessibility and household access found by this study helped to detect the impacts of accessibility or inaccessibility of households on waste management and pollution associated with this locality.

Fig. 3

Map of selected Peleng households within 10 m, 15 m and 20 m distances from the tarred roads

In the selection of households within 10 m (between 0 and 10 m) from the road, only 26% of the households, in red were selected (see Fig. 2, top left). In the selection of households within the location of 15 m from the tarred roads, about 32% of the households were selected. Moreover, when selecting households that are located within 20 m distances from tarred roads, about 39% of the households were selected. According to the Town Council key informants, the Botswana physical planning procedures’ the standard distance of households from the access roads must not exceed a distance of 10 m. Therefore, based on these selections and the given standard requirements, the study concluded that the majority (61%) of households in the Peleng Township did not have adequate access to road infrastructure, to enable efficient provision of solid waste collection.

The initial planning of these houses indicates that there is poor basic infrastructure planning for services, which could be a propelling contribution to the infrequent and delayed solid waste collection. This potentially increases the risk of poor waste management both at source and at the service provision level. Some (35%) of the unselected inaccessible households were located within a valley, where the provision of solid waste management services such as door to door solid waste collection impractical. The selection applied depicted an increasing trend of inaccessibility of households with increasing distance from road infrastructure, which implies that there was minimal planning and lack of developed street grid for service provision in this locality.

Digital terrain analysis

A digital terrain analysis allows for interpolation from point data (elevations), derivation of slopes and slope aspects. The terrain analysis was established by mapping a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of Peleng township, using 3D ArcCatalog tools to reveal in 3D, the accessibility or lack thereof, of some households in the area (Fig. 4). These topographic surfaces of Peleng gave the power to relate the data to real-world elevations and analyze how these varied surfaces may affect solid waste collection. Figure 3 reveals that Peleng households are distributed across even gentle and un-even steep slopes. This contributes largely to the continuous break down of fleet which was alluded by the Council key informant.

Fig. 4

Digital Elevation Model of Road and Household Infrastructure in Peleng Ward

With the visualization capacity of ARCGIS, the 3D figure of Peleng below depicts houses that may not adequately be serviced by the Town Council in the collection due to their location/ inaccessibility and distance from the road. Solid waste collection in this area is limited to households that are located nearer to the tarred roads, disadvantaging those that are in between narrow untarred roads, with a high possibility of illegal dumping. This includes households that are located within or in proximity to the valley, and those in steep locations. Even though skips and open dumping has failed in this locality before, alternative mechanisms of improved skipped can be established to ensure inclusive collection. The existing waste collection method favored by environmental conditions similar to this locality could be communal collection and the use of fenced skips as transfer points before collection. These methods have been successfully applied in other developing countries’ townships such as South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.

Governance of solid waste management services

The governance structure for solid waste management in the Peleng township is shaped by the discordance of solid waste services such as poor solid waste collection and disposal services inspired by a lack of infrastructure and finance by the Lobatse Town Council. According to Oduro-Kwarteng and Pieter van Dijk [39], the enabling environment for regulating efficient solid waste collection is concerned with the use of policies, strategies, legal instruments, regulation political will, as well as the commitment to good solid waste management. In the context of Lobatse, it appears that the local authority (Lobatse Town Council) is currently principally concerned with the solid waste collection as a primary service provision. Even so, there are still noted disparities in the form of delays and inconsistencies, which hinder the delivery of efficient, timely and consistent solid waste collections at households.

When responding to their provision of general waste management services in the town, the Town Council officers reported “We have very limited finances to provide solid waste bins efficiently and to repair their fleet, that is why we are said to be irregularly collecting solid waste at houses in Peleng”. Simatele and Etambakonga [40] observed that a lack of financial resources by the government not only challenges effective waste management but also hinders communities from solving urban challenges and problems such as pollution. The limited availability of financial resources in Lobatse Town Council may be associated as contributing factors to the deteriorations in road maintenance, poor or unmaintained waste management infrastructure, sewage and water systems, which are nonetheless vital elements for solid waste management.

A study done in nine cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America about governance of environmental infrastructure for low-income groups, argued that the wealth of a city and the responsiveness of local governments to the needs of urban groups can also influence the decisions on the provision of environmental infrastructure for efficient solid waste management services [25]. In relation to this study, there were reported mixed perceptions between households and the town council officials on the operation of open skips as alternative disposal areas for solid waste, considering the current inconsistent/delayed solid waste collection and lack of bins at households.

One of Lobatse Town Council officials interviewed during this study stated that “previously, we had open skips [refuse bins] that were used as waste transfer points in the town, but we stopped their operation because they were mismanaged by residents in this town”. Reasons advanced by the key informant were that households took advantage of the open skips to dispose of non-solid wastes (tree cuts, sweepings, metals, used furniture, ash, and children’s nappies) which must not be landfilled together with household solid waste. The town council officials reported that the afore-mentioned non-solid wastes are not classified under the jurisdiction of the waste management and sanitation unit. As such these non-solid wastes must be sold to scrap metal companies or collected by relevant local government departments that have been mandated to collect non-solid wastes, such as Department of parks and recreations and local clinics. The Department of Parks and Recreations is a unit available in Town Councils in Botswana (unavailable in district councils) and is mandated among other duties to collect tree cutting and yard sweep wastes at households at a charge separate from household waste collection fees. Local clinics are mandated to collect clinical wastes (including children’s nappies) for households with home nursed patients registered under homme-based care units, which together with other clinical wastes, are incinerated, and do not end at the local landfill.

The Town Council officials reported that households that are not registered with home-based care units are therefore responsible for the disposal of clinical wastes at the landfill since incineration is a costly exercise to cater for the inclusion of households. It is also the responsibility of households to voluntarily find, and sell their metal wastes to scrap yard companies, who then sell metals to neighboring countries such as South Africa, for reuse and recycling. However, the study established that households were not aware of this segregated nature of types of wastes within different departments in Botswana, and therefore expected the Town councils to collect all wastes, arguing it was costly exercise for households. For instance, households argued that it was financially costly to transport clinical wastes to the remotely located landfills. They further explained that scrap yards bought metals at a price much lower than the transport cost, arguing that it was a non- profitable exercise they were not willing to undergo. Where a household had not paid for tree cuttings/ yard sweeping waste collection with the department of parks and recreations, or where a household was not registered with a home-based care unit, they commonly hid it within household wastes for collection by Town Council, or illegally dumped it in the streets also for collection by Town Council.

Most households (68%) perceived that even though skips encouraged the mishandling of waste, solid waste did not accrue for long in their yards during the operation of open skips, because they had alternative disposal sites. When asked their opinion towards the establishment and the closing of the skips, all households revealed that they were in favor of open skips because they regarded them as effective and efficient ways of disposal of waste, including non-solid wastes. The study established that households did know the reasons why the Town Council stopped the operation of old open skips. In addition, it seemed that the implementation of the skips was achieved without the consultation of the residents. Studies on governance state that good governance of waste management systems entails informing and engaging the community during policy drafts or service provision establishments and/ or changes [41]. Thus, these factors could be used to argue that there is lack of communication between Town Council and households, on management procedures and methods of upkeeping the open skips, hence the mismanagement of the open skips by households. Furthermore, efficient urban environmental management should concern with the provision of a safe human habitat and environment through the provision of adequate sanitation and regular collection and safe disposal of waste [33], which is currently absent in this locality.

Low-cost methods of solid waste collection in informal settlements such as take away bins in narrow lanes, shared and community bio- bins, collection centers placed outside nearer supermarkets, as well as collections by a lorry as settlements entrance have been successfully effective in other informal settlements in such as in Mumbai and Bangladesh [42]. This study argues that, in Peleng, where most households (85%) belonged to environmental programmes concerned with community upkeep, the open skips would have been sufficiently managed, if households were involved in the establishments and negotiations of the objectives and operations, of the skips.

Even though the participation of residents in solid waste management was considered to be indispensable [25], households in this locality did not pay fees for solid waste collection services, because there were no payment structures present for solid waste services. However, given that the spatial nature and environmental properties of Lobatse generally; its inaccessibility of households and its lack of adequate infrastructure, hinders efforts of both households and government to effectively manage their solid waste. This study thus posits that a cost-sharing exercise for this locality may reduce the existing and rising environmental pollution problems, as well as the current financial burden on the Town Council. Studies have shown that through the participation of households in solid waste management activities starting from policy design unto cost-sharing, municipalities can render reliable service provisions [41,42,43].

Findings revealed that even though most households were actively trying to keep their yards and surroundings clean, there has been a failure to incorporate future infrastructural adjustments in urban planning for the provision of solid waste management services. It is argued that sometimes political factors and governance on solid waste management systems in informal settlements impede residents’ efforts of waste management in informal settlements [25], as there is a slight connection between the policies, awareness and priorities of government structures and the most pressing daily needs of most of the population.


The study examined the nexus between physical infrastructural planning and waste management service in Peleng township. The findings revealed that the community was aware of environmental waste problems in their settlement. Most households, through cluster groups employment or volunteerism are engaged in various cleaning programs and community litter picking campaigns, but their interventions have fallen short of becoming sustainable due to a continued failure of the government to integrate solid waste management into mainstream urban development planning. There was minimal government intervention for improved solid waste management in the area in that solid waste bins and basic waste management infrastructure were limited in this township. The study concluded that the problems of solid waste management in this area owes to inadequate and unplanned physical infrastructure, and the topographic properties of this township. If waste authorities are to achieve a sustainable waste management system, solid waste management service provision in informal settlements should be integrated and represented in both urban planning and policy-making processes, advancing on effort sharing amongst all waste management stakeholders.

It was notable that the Town Council does not take cognizance of the unique physical nature of this town when planning for solid waste management services, thus the study recommends that adequate attention must be given to road infrastructure and physical developments in order to improve solid waste management service provision in Lobatse. The study recommends for the upgrading of storage and collection facilities in the township to increase collection efficiency rates of the Town Council in the area, to decrease illegal burning and dumping which are apparent in this community. Since the community is already participating in waste reduction, recycling and reduce education must be instilled by the government through the existing programs (cluster groups). The Lobatse Town Council byelaws on the operation, and closure of open skips should involve all stakeholders in future, to motivate action for management and monitoring of open skips used as transfer stations for solid waste, before collection, in order to cater for households without access to waste management infrastructure. Due to spatial data constraints, and financial limitations, this study was not able to compare findings with other informal settlements of Botswana with different topographic properties. As such future solid waste management studies with interest in spatial properties may consider doing research in other towns of dissimilar topographic types, and/ or informal settlements of different physical characteristics.


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Correspondence to Nametso D. Phonchi-Tshekiso.

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Phonchi-Tshekiso, N.D., Mogomotsi, P.K., Mogomotsi, G.E.J. et al. A qualitative assessment of solid waste management in Peleng township in Lobatse, Botswana considering spatial aspects. Waste Dispos. Sustain. Energy (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42768-020-00042-z

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  • ArcGIS
  • Informal settlements
  • Infrastructural planning
  • Solid waste management
  • Topography
  • Urban development