Image from the Ministry of the Environment’s Cleanup-Month campaign

Household garbage collection is an ongoing dilemma in Tunisia. Heaps of trash, the contents of torn-open plastic bags spilled out onto sidewalks are commonplace in neighborhoods across the capital. Even Bardo, the historic area where (a currently dissolved) parliament traditionally convenes, is no exception to the litter-strewn scenery. Against this backdrop, the Ministry of the Environment was keen to introduce « Cleanup-Month », a waste collection campaign that was held between August 14 and September 4.

On its digital platform cleanup-month.tn, the Ministry describes its operation as « a grassroots awareness-raising initiative that aims to diffuse a culture of environmentalism, and an engaging approach to promoting a clean and beautiful Tunisia ». Registration is open to different categories of participants, including individuals, teams, associations, public institutions and businesses who are able to choose their collection area online. The Ministry’s regional offices and different bodies « provide participants with the necessary logistics » which are outlined on the platform. Between August 14 and September 4, « 545 participants, including individuals and associations, took part in the operation, and 237 actions were recorded across the country », Mahdi Abdelli, the Ministry’s communications officer, is pleased to share with Nawaat.

Conflict of authority?

« Who planned this event? To what end? Is it just to collect a few plastic bottles? What is being done about the garbage dumps in Agareb and Borj Chakir, about the beaches polluted by the ONAS’ waste? » asks Adnen Bouassida, president of the National Federation of Tunisian Communes (FNCT) and mayor of the Raoued commune. For Bouassida, Cleanup-Month falls short of expectations, and fits into the category of « short-term » actions. « It’s a sign of the Ministry’s shortcoming! The Ministry of the Environment is a ministry of meetings and events. What does it plan to do about unregulated garbage dumps, for instance? The minister travels around with her staff and meets with governors, and doesn’t include the communes. The result? A handful of individuals cleaning up plastic », Bouassida observes with sarcasm.