Waste Management in Morocco

Solid waste management is one of the major environmental problems threatening the Mediterranean Kingdom of Morocco. More than 5 million tons of solid waste is generated across the country with annual waste generation growth rate touching 3 percent. The proper disposal of municipal solid waste in Morocco is exemplified by major deficiencies such as lack of proper infrastructure and suitable funding in areas outside of major cities. 

According to the World Bank, it was reported that before a recent reform in 2008 “only 70 percent of urban MSW was collected and less than 10 percent of collected waste was being disposed of in an environmentally and socially acceptable manner. There were 300 uncontrolled dumpsites, and about 3,500 waste-pickers, of which 10 percent were children, were living on and around these open dumpsites.”  

The Menace of Trash Burning

It is not uncommon to see trash burning as a means of solid waste disposal in Morocco.  Currently, the municipal waste stream is disposed of in a reckless and unsustainable manner which has major effects on public health and the environment.  The lack of waste management infrastructure leads to burning of trash as a form of inexpensive waste disposal.  Unfortunately, the major health effects of burning trash are either widely unknown or grossly under-estimated to the vast majority of the population in Morocco.

Burning of trash is a particular health concern because of the substantial amount of dioxins it produces.  A dioxin is a highly toxic environmental pollutant that is released when household waste is burned.  Most of the dioxins that are released into the air during the burning process end up on the leaves of green vegetation.   These plants are then eaten by dairy animals such as cows,sheep and goats which results in the dioxins being stored and accumulating in the animal’s fatty tissues.  Once this occurs, dioxins are difficult to avoid and people are exposed to them primarily by eating meat and other dairy products, especially those high in fat. 

Furthermore, this type of open burning also causes particle pollution.  Particle pollution refers to microscopic particles that end up in the lungs and cause enormous amounts of human health problems, such as asthma and bronchitis.  Unfortunately, children and the elderly who are exposed to dioxins are among the highest at risk for contracting these illnesses.   Other harmful carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are consequences of outdoor burning.   These pollutants have been known to cause numerous amounts of health problems ranging from skin irritation to liver and kidney damage and even in some more serious cases have been linked to cancer. 

The ash itself that is produced when trash is burned often contains mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic.  “Garden vegetables can absorb and accumulate these metals, which can make them dangerous to eat. Children playing in the yard or garden can incidentally ingest soil containing these metals. Also, rain can wash the ash into groundwater and surface water, contaminating drinking water and food.” This is not even mentioning the population of garbage-pickers who are putting their health on the line while sorting municipal wastes. 

Silver Lining

The good news about the future of Morocco’s MSW management is that the World Bank has allocated $271.3 million to the Moroccan government to develop a municipal waste management plan.  The plan’s details include restoring around 80 landfill sites, improving trash pickup services, and increasing recycling by 20%, all by the year 2020. While this reform is expected to do wonders for the urban population one can only hope the benefits of this reform trickle down to the 43% of the Moroccan population living in rural areas, like those who are living in my village.

Needless to say, even with Morocco’s movement toward a safer and more environmentally friendly MSW management system there is still an enormous population of people including children and the elderly who this reform will overlook.   Until more is done, including funding initiatives and an increase in education, these people will continue to be exposed to hazardous living conditions because of unsuitable funding, infrastructure and education.  



The World Factbook Africa: Morocco. (2013, 8/22/2013). The World Factbook.  Retrieved 11/02/2013, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mo.html

Morocco: Municipal Solid Waste Sector. (2013).   Retrieved 11/01/2013, 2013, from http://goo.gl/k91kry

Wastes – Non-Hazardous Waste – Municipal Solid Waste. (2012, 11/15/2012).   Retrieved 10/31/2013, from http://www.epa.gov/osw/nonhaz/municipal/backyard/health.htm


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About Catherine Hansen

Catherine Hansen is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and graduate from West Virginia University, where she studied for her Masters in Sustainable Development. She recently returned from a 27-month service in Morocco where she was serving as a Youth Development volunteer designing literacy, health, and environmental programming for youth in collaboration with local associations and volunteers. One of her main life goals is to share her passion for protecting the environment from human harm by bringing awareness to environmental issues that are often times over looked. Through outreach and education, Catherine hopes to inspire a refreshed appreciation for our natural world. She aims to begin her career in environmental services within the year.
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7 Responses to Waste Management in Morocco

  1. Pingback: Moreover Monday- Waste Management in Morocco | Induffinitely.... in progress

  2. Ken Borg says:

    Hi Catherine

    Hi have just left you a message on another article of yours Catherine re Olive’s.
    I am in talks with Nigeria on recycling of Green Waste on a large scale as well as stopping Liquid Chemical Waste from factories ending up in their Rivers or dumped. I have full systems that can be put in place to collect and treat the liquid chemical waste at a specially designed factory using custom built equipment.
    I would be great-full of a contact in the Morocco Government if you have one.

    I liked your article, very sad to think how much pollution is happening right around the world. You wonder why Governments of the world as well as the large corporations that make these chemical laden products that are killing us, don’t want to think about the affects of all these chemicals to our environment, on the long term health to people and our plant. These corporations like the tobacco industry not only kill millions of people each year but pollute our plant with toxic smoke and butts that end up in the oceans by the trillions. People done think about how much rubbish ends up at the bottom of our oceans as they can’t see it.

    Kind regards

    Ken Borg

    New Zealand

  3. Younes says:


    Can you reach out to me regarding your product for Green Waste in Morocco.

    Best Regards


  4. Pingback: One Man’s Trash is a Rubbish Collector’s Livelihood | Energy and Environmental Policy 2015

  5. Mathias says:

    Hello Catherine,
    i found your article during my research for a waste management project 50km south of marrakech. An orphanage asked our social voluntary association (from Germany) to plan a proper oven to burn the waste on a higher temperature. That is the first step of an enviromental understanding. When we started to plan the oven we decided to look for a better and more enviromental solution for the waste problem. We are searching for recycling companies in morrocco (close to marrakech) to work with.

    If you have any contacts to some recycling companies, we would love to hear from you.

    Best regards,

  6. Przemek says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I saw that the loan from World Bank was from 2009 and 2010, do you know if during last six years something possitive happened in Marocco with that waste issue?

    “The first loan of US$132.7 million was approved in March 2009. The second loan of US$138.6 was approved in December 2010”

    I am looking for information if they are maybe doing some reclamation of waste, or makeing some biogas?


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