Keeping plastic pollution at bay in Kwale

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 00:00 |
Some workers at the Waste Recycle Depot in Mwabungu area in Kwale county PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Akshay Shah       

In recent decades, manufacturing has been visualised as a mechanism to produce goods for the large market without concern about their after-effects on the end consumer.

And with a rapidly growing global population, resources for production are now deteriorating as markets for products continue to grow.

It has now more than ever become necessary for industries to concentrate on the final destination of their products and find new avenues to provide resources for continuous production.

Industrialists have now become conscious of the effects of their products to the environment and to the future ecosystem. In short, they are now ready to embrace circular economy. 

The idea of circular economy could not have come at a better time when environmentalists, governments and the private sector are rallying for environmental conservation and pollution reduction.

Adopting a circular economy, which seeks to eliminate waste and employs reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling, has proven to provide opportunities for a country to retain liquidity and therefore open opportunities for entrepreneurship and employment. 

In essence, it’s about resources moving from cradle to cradle, where waste from one process is a resource in other processes, instead of cradle to grave, where the impact created by disposal of products has a negative effect on the environment.

For instance, in plastic packaging, we start with oil as one of the raw materials and convert it to plastic packaging products which are distributed to retailers and eventually to consumers.

If these products are disposed, collected and sorted in the right way, recycling is possible.

In the short to medium term, the recycled plastic is developed into other products that do not require to be food-safe, but have a long term use.

The effectiveness of circular economy remains on the ability of a product to be recycled back into its almost original purpose.

Globally, two major industry associations, The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation are investing massively and pushing for commitment of global leaders in the circular value chain.

 This in line with the fact that circular economy offers an opportunity to minimise the negative impacts of plastics while maximising the benefits from plastics and their products.

Circular economy solutions for plastics include producing plastics from alternative non-fossil fuel feedstocks; using plastic waste as a resource and redesigning plastic manufacturing processes and products to enhance longevity, reusability and waste prevention. 

 Closer home, Kenya is at the forefront of championing sustainability, with the government and the private sector working to achieve circular economy.

A good example is the Framework of Cooperation  signed between government through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the National Environment Management Authority and the private sector through the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. 

This is a partnership that seeks to reduce plastic waste in the environment through collection and recycling.

 But such initiatives remain a small part of the circular economy. We also lack a unified plan to assist to achieve a sustainable inclusive circular economy. 

KAM’s Kenya Plastics Action Plan set to be launched later this month provides an opportunity for the private sector to establish a collective position and propose solutions on plastic pollution.

It is a comprehensive report that lays out a roadmap to achieving an inclusive circular economy.

Additionally, in order to achieve an inclusive circular economy as a country, we must also look into promoting sustainable manufacturing that produces products that are fully recyclable.

A circular economy will be a sure way of increasing revenue while conserving our environment. The writer is the Group Executive Director of Silafrica —[email protected] 

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