Handling waste a shared responsibility

Thursday December 14 2017

Garbage collection Mombasa

Garbage collection in Mombasa. Challenges in waste management are quite prevalent, not just in Kenya, but also globally. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Challenges in waste management are quite prevalent, not just in Kenya, but also globally.

The problem is exacerbated in the developing countries due to the high population growth and the rapid and sometimes unplanned urbanisation.

The main reasons are infrastructural inadequacies and changing consumption trends or habits. 

Urban centres bear the largest share of the burden in waste management the world over.

As can be witnessed in Nairobi, waste is often found along roads or outside homes and businesses, including those in the central business district.

Additionally, the major urban sprawl across the country has compounded the problem of waste management.


The challenge is multifaceted; ranging from recycling, generation of waste, separation, behaviour change, collection, transport, treatment, reuse and disposal. 

It’s a problem that must involve all stakeholders from households, traders, manufacturers, private sector companies to the government.

Every individual has a role to play to make this world a better place.

The big question is: Who should take responsibility for waste management?
For a long time, the responsibility has been left to the government.

However, increased populations and demand for government services has stretched thin the capacity to deliver. 


A few private companies have on an annual basis organised clean-up campaigns as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. 

This has not borne much fruit and lacks measurability of impact. Some form of organised waste management by recycling companies does exist, especially for solid waste like plastics, paper and glass, but the effort is uncoordinated.

However, stakeholders are realising the urgent need to collaborate. One such partnership is the formation of the PET task force, which is a partnership between the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Environment Management Authority and industry - under the umbrella of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.


The goal is to address the challenge of the PET plastic bottles waste disposal by developing a take-back scheme that looks at managing the waste through recycling whilst providing sustainable jobs to citizens.

The scheme is based on a model involving all stakeholders on the entire value chain that is factory-customer-private collector-to recycling these materials. These kinds of models have been found to be the most effective.

The initiators are working on the basic principles of the model which are being rolled out.

The success will demonstrate that industry-led initiatives can provide solutions to intractable problems for which an easy government solution is not available. It will be a template for other waste management initiatives across the country.
Kenya is a trailblazer in Africa in addressing environmental concerns. 

The biggest challenge will be influencing the disposal habits of citizens, and partnerships can play a big role.

In addition, a more systematic approach is needed to manage waste from disposal to recycling.

The development of The National Waste Management Bill 2017 that seeks to establish an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the efficient and sustainable management of waste in the framework of the green economy confirms commitment to dealing with waste.

It is my hope that we can forge the right partnerships that will lead us in coming up with sustainable waste disposal mechanisms for Kenya.

Ms Wakiaga is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Network Representative for Kenya.[email protected]