Inside Politics

How private sector can back plastic waste management

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Plastic waste management.

The country’s move to  ban the use, manufacture, and importation of plastic carrier bags in 2017 and single-use plastics in all protected areas including parks and beaches, beginning June 5, 2020 was welcomed in many quarters as the right step in dealing with plastic waste menace.

To successfully implement the ban and hopefully phase out the plastic menace, Kenya’s proposed Waste Management Bill recommends the establishment of a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO), whose role would be to ensure plastics are collected, sorted and recycled after use.

In this case, the private sector will bear significant responsibility for the post-consumer phase of single-use goods under a scheme referred to as an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

This includes financial and/or physical, such as the cost of disposing of and/or recycling post-consumer goods- factor that is expected to promote proper waste management practices among Kenyan businesses.

Kenya generates a bout 22,000 tonnes of waste per day, translating to eight million tonnes annually.

Past inventories indicate a national average estimate of 20 per cent is plastic, according to the 2019 Revised Waste Policy report by the Ministry of Environment. 

Sustainable disposal 

Karin Boomsma, director, Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB) Kenya, is adamant that individual responsibility from manufacturers in stemming the tide of environmental hazard is vital moving forward. 

“We encourage businesses, shops and even homes to establish sustainable waste disposal models.

They can do this by rethinking products and materials they are using and by applying reuse models and alternatives that might be easier to manage.

Karin Boosma, Director Sustainable Inclusive Business.

Then look for licensed collectors and recyclers as well as sustainable suppliers to work with.

Make sure that the producers and suppliers have an EPR in place and are contributing to a waste management system,” she says. 

Boomsma adds that although regulations such as the Sustainable Waste Management Policy and Waste Management Action Plan in Nairobi, are in place, their implementation depends on individual responsibility. 

Experts say the advocacy for the Circular Economy (CE) model is based on its emphasis to redefine growth, by focusing not only on the profits, but also on longer-term positive impacts on the planet and its people.

In CE, waste is considered part of the system (a resource or material that should stay or become an input over and over again), and is reintroduced into the cycle to regenerate other products.

Jeopardising environment 

“Compostable waste is placed in our compost pit at the camp and used in our organic vegetable garden.

Other waste is separated at the camp and transported to Nairobi and disposed of through Taka Taka Solutions.

Wine bottles are recycled at the camp either as water bottles for drinking water or to irrigate the 500+ trees planted in and around the camp,” Gabrielle Nowak, CEO, Mara Bush Camp & Private Wing, located in the heart of the Mara Game Reserve says. 

Dr Ayub Macharia, Ministry of Environment’s Director of Education and Awareness.

She adds, “We have been compliant with elimination of single-use plastic in our camp for the past two years and are using double insulated steel bottles for our guests while on game drive instead of plastic bottles.

The ban is important and must be fully adhered to in order to protect our wildlife and parks.”

In Kenya, plastic recycling stands at a meagre 10 per cent. If this trend continues, the Kenya Biodiversity 2018 report warns, oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

By jeopardizing the environment’s ability to effectively provide its indispensable provisions, we reap the unfortunate consequences of ill health as micro plastics from disposed waste find their way into our food chains and bodies. 

Ministry of Environment’s Director of Education and Awareness Dr Ayub Macharia believes the private sector would be pivotal in the plastic management conversation.

“Kenya private sector alliance has a plan to put up 17 new companies to manage similar amount of waste streams.

This is the way to go and it is commendable. As it is, the ban of single use plastics on protected areas has been effected and obviously we can now see positive change on that front.

We as a ministry and by extension the government have an agreement with Kenya Association of Manufacturers that they would set up a take back scheme,” he says.

He adds that the ministry is keen on recycling, and manufacturers already understand this because there is a Plastic Action Plan and part of the recommendations was full implementation for compliance. 

“Apart from that, we have two documents already adopted by the Cabinet. Indeed the EPR Regulations on recycling takes care of recyclable waste, of which at least 35 per cent is recyclable and 60 per cent is organic,” he said. 

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