Kenya can easily transform its Economy through Solid waste management

Rosemary Okello-Orlale is the Director of the Africa Media Hub- Strathmoree University Business School.


By Rosemary Okello-Orlale

Solid waste management is a subject that is rarely discussed, especially in policy forums.  Further, when it is done, on many occasions either policy makers or the government receives the brunt of the blame for poor management of environment. People hardly talk of what their individual role is in solid waste management.

Yet proper waste management can provide an opportunity to generate value from the waste and reduce the quantities ending up in landfills, while at the same time creating employment opportunities as in the case of Netherlands and Austria which has best waste management programme in Europe.

This came out clearly during the recent media policy breakfast on the challenges, barriers and opportunities associated with improving waste management in the transition to a green economy. This was held by the Africa Media Hub based in Strathmore University Business School, in partnership with Business Advocacy Fund.

Karin Boomsma, the Director at Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) while demonstrating a scenario on ‘Beyond Waste’, talked of how we have cultivated a certain view of solid waste in our minds, in our economy and in our country.

According to her, this has made a majority of the Kenyan population to make the Kenyan economy a one-way track of consuming and disposing.

“We need to change this whole concept by adopting a new concept of take-make and dispose. And start asking ourselves, how can our waste help us re-build our economy rather than reducing it,” says Boomsma.

In countries where waste management has been given priority, majority of the challenges they present, including health problems, poverty, unemployment and food shortage, have been addressed. According to her, such countries have developed policies to ensure that no resources are wasted.

Currently, as people the world over are linking sustainable development and business success to form a perfect exchange, three types of economy which are linked to waste management have emerged. These are: (i) Linear Economy, (ii) Recycling Economy, and (ii) Circular Economy.

While a majority of countries have shifted their economy to a circular economy, whereby they have transformed their waste into materials, products and set up policies and ecosystems for re-use and recycling, Kenya is still stuck on a linear economy.

“This has made our economy to depend on cheap materials and we have resorted to dumpsite which is not a solution,” explains Boomsma.

While the country has in place relevant policies and laws to help address the problem of waste management, little attention is being paid on the many opportunities the country can derive and benefit from the solid waste management.

Kenya made commitments on the environment. Article 42 in the Constitution of Kenya (COK 2010) acknowledges that every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment, while Vision 2030 has accorded some recognition to waste management systems. At county level, Nairobi, Eldoret, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu and Thika have enacted an Environment Management and Coordination Act.

According to Faith Ngige of KEPSA, this move should be used to redefine waste management, “especially how do we rethink of waste as a nation,” stated Faith.

“Going by the success registered in the management of plastics in Kenya when the country stopped the manufacturing plastics,” Ms Ngige said,

“Having an enabling environment both at the national and county levels can harness the expertise of environmental professionals with the need to deliver improved waste management systems for a green economy.”

Talking on Zero Waste, Ms. Ngige challenged every stakeholder that they have every responsibility. “We can change the whole narrative on waste management including how we value the workforce in the sector”.

For the Kibra community, the narrative on waste management has already changed. According to Hamida Malasen of Kibra Green Group, her team is transforming Kibra Constituency through solid waste management because it is helping them address a majority of the challenges faced by the community, including health problems, poverty, unemployment, and food shortages.

Through this, they are directly contributing to a number of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as ending poverty, good health and well being, clean water and sanitation.

“We demystify the feeling that someone else is supposed to come to Kibera to clean our environment when we ourselves are the ones disposing the waste,” says Hamida.

Kibra Green sells a variety of products including: engraved recycled glass gifts, water and wine glasses, bowls, decoration bottles and glass utensils, packaging bags made from carton, shopping bags from recycled clothing, and, decorative glass bottles and plastics.

They also supply plastic and tin as raw materials for recycling to manufacturers. However, their core business focuses on composting organic waste to fertilizer for urban agriculture.

“The remaining products from waste will be mentioned as complements during the sale of organic fertilizer generated from composting organic waste,” says Hamida.

What came-out clearly is that the feeling that someone else is supposed to be in charge of waste management is a thing of the past. All of us must be involved in making our environment clean and turning our waste into resource for the economic growth of our country.

Rosemary Okello-Orlale is the Director of the Africa Media Hub- Strathmore University Business School.