INITIATIVE

How Kenya plans to adress plastics waste menace

Nairobi residents generate an estimated 2,400 tonnes of solid waste every day.

In Summary

•Of this, 20 per cent is in plastic form, according to a research by the World Bank.

•Poor waste management, coupled with rising urban pressure, have heightened the risks of environmental degradation in the city of  about 4.4 million people.

Residents of Mirera estate near Lake Naivasha look at plastic bags washed into the lake.
NAIVASHA FILTH: Residents of Mirera estate near Lake Naivasha look at plastic bags washed into the lake.
Image: FILE

Nairobi residents generate an estimated 2,400 tonnes of solid waste every day.

Of this, 20 per cent is in plastic form, according to research by the World Bank.

Poor waste management, coupled with rising urban pressure, has heightened the risks of environmental degradation in the city of about 4.4 million people.

To tackle the plastic menace, an ambitious new collaborative initiative on waste management and pollution has been launched.

This is the Kenya Plastics Pact (KPP) which will bring together stakeholders across the plastics value chain, to create a circular economy for plastics.

The pact brings together businesses, governments, researchers, NGOs, civil society, informal waste sector players, and other stakeholders across the whole plastics value chain, to set time-bound commitments to transform the current linear plastics system into a circular plastics economy.

Plastics waste and pollution have captured the attention of businesses, governments, and citizens in Kenya.

Today, published data shows that only eight per cent of plastic is recycled, with the remainder being landfilled or incinerated – or in the worst-case scenario, ending up in the environment (IUCN, 2021).

"There is a need to fundamentally rethink the way we design, use and reuse plastics, and move to a circular economy that keeps plastics in use and out of the environment," Kenya's Ministry of Environment and Forestry notes.

The launch of the Kenya Plastics Pact comes at a much-desired time when the system calls for all relevant stakeholders in the whole value chain to come together to close the loop; by promoting and embracing the elimination, innovation, and circular principles.

"Through such initiatives as this, I envision that we shall create a local economy that thrives on our own available resources, by ensuring that plastic waste is not waste, but a resource that is kept in the economy and out of the environment,"Environment CS Keriako Tobiko notes.

COMMITMENT 

All KPP stakeholders have signed up to a joint set of ambitious and time-bound targets, ensuring that the collaboration will drive significant change by 2030.

Progress will be monitored and publicly reported every year, and collective efforts and targets will speed up the transition.

By 2030, all members commit to eliminating unnecessary or problematic single-use plastic packaging items through redesign, innovation, and reuse delivery models.

They will also ensure 100 per cent of plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable.

About 40 per cent of plastic packaging will be effectively recycled and 15 per cent average recycled content across all plastic packaging.

Karin Boomsma, the Project Director, observed that four years after the ban on plastic carrier bags, the country is still largely operating in a linear economy.

“We take, make, and dispose of in an extractive model that is not sustainable for businesses, people, or the environment. It depletes finite resources, pollutes our environment, and contributes to global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss," she said.

"We must shift our focus to a circular economy, with innovations and business models that design out waste, keep materials in use, and protect and restore our environment,”Boomsma added.

At the time of launch, the Kenya Plastics Pact membership already covered the entire plastics value chain with leading organisations from across the country.

The founding members are L’Oréal EastAfrica, BIDCO Group, Coca-Cola, BioFoods, Silafrica, Vintz Plastics, Rintz Industries, RecyklaInternational, Green Pavers, Takataka Solutions, Base Titanium, Ecocycle Enterprises, Florensis, EmpowerEco, Ecoworld Recycling and Trash-Thread-Textiles (T3).

The pact is officially supported by the Kenyan Government through the Ministry of Environment, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance(KEPSA), Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and the Retail Trade Association of Kenya (RETRAK).

Others are WWF Kenya, WEEE Center, Together For Better Foundation, Tierranjani Africa, the Kenya PET Recycling Company (PETCO), the Nairobi Waste Pickers Association and the Ajira Digital and Employment Program.

In Kenya, the majority of material that gets recycled is collected and sorted by the informal waste sector.

At the same time, the extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging is currently being implemented in the country.

EPR is a necessary funding mechanism to move towards a circular economy but is not enough in itself.

It is now more relevant than ever to bring the whole value chain together, and build collective solutions adapted to our reality, experts say.

“These targets will drive the change we need for the planet and the health of the Kenyan people. They will also stimulate job creation in the plastics collection and recycling sector, and help to create new opportunities in product redesign, the alternative business solution, and re-use business models,” said Emily Waita, KEPSA environment sector board Chair.

She spoke on behalf of CEO Carole Kariuki.

TARGETS 

The Kenya Plastics Pact will meet a number of targets with a clearly defined roadmap for how the pact members and supporters will collectively reach them.

It will measure and communicate progress through public annual reporting, co-designing and implementing pioneer and collaborative projects across the country, and sharing knowledge, experiences, and learnings with national, regional, and global experts within the Plastics Pact Network.

By delivering on these targets, the Kenya Plastics Pact will help unlock investment in the collection, reuse, and recycling of the waste in an environmentally sound manner while also delivering jobs, skills, and opportunities for partnership.

It also seeks to integrate Kenya’s informal waste sector which the Pactdefines as crucial to achieving a circular economy in the country.

To achieve this, the Pact will explore a program of activities to support the waste pickers in such areas as accreditation, credits, data platforms, training, and welfare, among others; so as to increase the circularity of plastics.

Ultimately, achieving the ambitious targets of the Kenya Plastics Pact will improve the wellbeing and economic conditions of Kenya's waste pickers.

Kenya has already started to tackle the plastic waste challenge with the Kenya Plastics Action Plan launched in 2019, which has now led to the development of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)regulations and framework currently under discussion.

The purpose of the regulations is to provide a framework for the establishment of mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes in the country; where a producer’s responsibility for their products is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life-cycle which may include collection, sorting, and treatment for recycling or recovery.

According to proponents of the Kenya Plastics Pact, the successful implementation of the EPR requires to be complemented by a wider set of policies, voluntary industry action, and innovation towards a circular economy for packaging.

“By operating within the Kenyan context, in relation to government Policies, the Kenya Plastics Pact’stargets are ambitious to reflect the urgent need for action. Meeting these targets will require collective action, including effective policy enforcement, and the adoption of the EPR regulations,"  notes Ebenezer Amadi, the Program Manager, Sustainable Inclusive Business.

The Pact will among other things help mobilize resources to implement interventions, innovations, and campaigns developed to boost the implementation of the EPR and maximize impact.

Furthermore, it will optimise the recycling value chain; through innovation on recyclability, redesign, adoption of take-back schemes, improved collection, and recycling systems – through labeling and coding, and by increasing the quality and volume of recyclates to guarantee markets and aim to close the loop from input to output.

The development and implementation of the initiative are being led by Sustainable Inclusive BusinessKenya (SIB-K), the Knowledge Center under the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA); with support from WRAP - the UK-based global environmental NGO and MAVA Foundation.

The Kenya Plastics Pact is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact Network.