Darlyne Proctor, Waste Reduction Manager, City of Colchester, Nova Scotia, and Michael Buchholzer, Director of Environmental Services, City of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, are solid waste management (SWM) technical advisors to the Jordan Municipal Support Project. For the last 2 years, they have been supporting Jordan municipalities to improve SWM services by conducting solid waste audits and developing SWM plans.
Proctor and Buchholzer reflect on the impact their work has had on municipalities across Jordan.
Ahlan wa Sahlan is a phrase you hear often in Jordan – it means “welcome.” As Solid Waste Management Technical Advisors to the Jordan Municipal Support Project (JMSP), we certainly got a warm welcome on our first mission! It was back in October 2018, and we landed in Amman shortly after an eight-day garbage strike concluded. Workers were demanding better pay, a savings fund and incentives that were promised two years earlier. When we arrived, there was a lot of litter, illegal dumping and garbage burning, which was causing public health, environmental and safety concerns.
However, just one year later, we are happy to report the incredible positive outcomes, from increased knowledge of SWM to embracing the need for good data and to understanding how behavior change with citizens is a key component for any SWM plan.
Overcoming resistance to the process
When we first began our work with JMSP, we faced a lot of frustration with and skepticism of the approach. Jordanian municipal officials were in crisis — the garbage strike had badly damaged public trust, and they were under pressure to show progress fast. How was a waste audit going to help them with that?
At the time, the JMSP approach seemed long and arduous. It takes time, resources and dedication to conduct a solid waste audit, interpret the data, and develop a solid waste management plan in compliance with national regulations. For smaller, rural municipalities, it was especially difficult to convey the importance of taking a methodical approach. With limited staff and no specialized solid waste management training, analyzing and studying garbage was a new topic.
When we first spoke with municipal staff, they focused on receiving financial support for purchasing and maintaining waste bins, new compactor garbage trucks, and funds for recycling or other projects. They wanted quick and easy fixes to show the public.
Connecting with peers, sharing experiences
The first thing we needed to do was help the municipal officials understand that solid waste management is not just about new compactors or bins – it’s about understanding the waste a community produces, so you can address the most immediate needs.
But first, we had to build trust with our Jordanian partners. In order to truly collaborate and share our process, we needed to understand their perspective and context. Through this exchange, we realized that we shared many common experiences and challenges — just on different scales. Once we established a strong working partnership, we were able to better explain the importance of the JMSP approach and implement the practices with more ease.
On our first mission, in October 2018, we trained staff in six municipalities on how to conduct waste audits. None of these staff had ever conducted an audit before. By the end of our time together, not only could the municipalities conduct their own audits, they could also share their knowledge with their partner municipalities and teach them how to conduct audits. We also trained JMSP staff in waste auditing, so they could provide hands-on support after we had left.
In October 2019, JMSP organized a study tour for six Jordan municipal staff to attend the Coast Waste Management Conference in Victoria and to participate in study tours with the Capital Regional District, including a visit to a local landfill and composting facility. We were happy to meet up with the Jordan municipal staff, several of whom we had met previously. This time around, our discussions were very different. Instead of focusing on new equipment, we talked about diverting organic waste through composting initiatives. We were happy to see those early conversations and training had made such an important difference.
Seeing results, measuring success
In November 2019, we went back to Jordan to help with additional waste audits and continue discussions with staff about SWM planning and service delivery.
"…this time, attendees were not skeptical, they were engaged."
In one meeting with the municipality of Sheehan, a small, rural community of 23,000, we met with the mayor, council members, municipal staff, community members and national ministry representatives. We presented the JMSP process of improving solid waste management, and this time, attendees were not skeptical, they were engaged. We shared about how our hometowns encounter some of the same challenges, and how we used this process to overcome them. The presentation was interactive, with lots of questions and discussion from elected officials and technical staff. It was a marked difference from what we had experienced only a year earlier.
"This change in attitude was the result of JMSP’s capacity building and training model."
This change in attitude was the result JMSP’s capacity building and training model. This approach takes longer and isn’t flashy, but it is more sustainable and ultimately leads to long-lasting change. JMSP adapts its training to the needs of its partner municipalities, and staff are able to provide high quality, reliable support to municipalities over the long term. Jordanians are helping their fellow Jordanians, and everybody’s knowledge and capacity increases.
What’s next? Educating, engaging and energizing
Community engagement – a crucial component to developing a solid waste management plans -- is the next step for the Jordanian municipalities. For most municipalities, this will be the first time engaging the community on SWM.
Community engagement is an opportunity to gather input from the community, such as schools and religious leaders, and ensure that all waste management strategies reflect the needs of the community.
We look forward to being welcomed back to Jordan and continuing to support our Jordanian colleagues to implement their solid waste management plans.