FROM THE FIELD: Turning waste into a business in the slums of Yaoundé, Cameroon

UN-Habitat/Kirsten Milhahn Morning in the streets of Melen, a slum area in the middle of Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The increasing volume and complexity of waste associated with modern economies is posing a serious risk to ecosystems and human health. Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide, according to the UN Environment Programme.

For the past 20 years, a young man from the slums of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, has been running a local waste collection service that has had a transformative impact on the community around him. The residential area of Melen, like most teeming city’s informal settlements, is not connected to the public garbage disposal system.

Through the Tam Tam Mobile, nearly every morning at 6 a.m., a team of young men from Melen make their way through the community. At the end of their shift, they unload their full carts at a municipal waste collection point outside the slum.

The Tam Tam Mobile initiative is supported by UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Read more here about this unique initiative.

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