Incentivizing Waste Management is the way to go

By Phyllis Wakiaga

The need to invest in new avenues of social income has become the driving force for new inventions in waste management.

Over the years, industry has been tasked with identifying solutions to manage the waste they produce as well as post-consumer waste. However, their efforts to establish sustainable waste management mechanisms have been challenged by, among others, lack of adequate consumer awareness, poor policy frameworks and lack of structured Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes.

We now see a great turnaround in this with the recent efforts by Government to incentivize waste recycling. As industry, we continue to push for the implementation of these incentives, particularly the ones stated in the budget statement on (1) proposal to exempt from VAT all services offered to Plastic recycling plants and supply of machinery and equipment used in the construction of these plants and (2) the proposal to lower corporation tax for the first five years to 15% for any investors operating a plastic recycling plant.

But over and above this, intriguing innovations are being developed to incentivize consumers to manage waste. These must be encouraged in order to achieve a circular economy.

A great example in Kenya is the development of the Customer Bora Mobile Application by renowned Kenyan artist Julius ‘Juliani’ Owino. The App provides a waste management system that encourages the use of modern technology to facilitate proper disposal of waste. Having established multiple waste collection stations referred to as Taka Banks for consumers to deposit their waste, the application calculates the volume of waste from each depositor and rewards them accordingly.

This is a demonstration of the potential that lies in Africa to develop mutually beneficial social economic inventions for different stakeholders within the waste recycling value chain, which will play a key role in curbing environmental pollution.

For instance, in Nigeria, Organisations African Clean Up Initiative and WeCyclers are working with Morit International School in Ajegunle, Lagos on a Recycle Pay project. BBC reports that the Project allows parents to use plastic waste to pay their children’s school fees. The process involves parents providing plastics waste to the school, where it is weighed and the weight converted into monetary value, which is then deducted from the school fees. The plastic waste is then collected by a recycling company.

Globally, Norway can be described as the champion of driving an incentivized waste management scheme. The Guardianhas stated that the Norwegian Deposit Refund System, also known as Infinitum, was established in 1999 and is owned by Norwegian bottlers and retailers. It champions the depositing and recycling of plastic bottles and beverage cans. Through this scheme, Norway has been able to recycle about 97% of its plastic bottles with less than 1% ending up in the environment. In fact, according to the Infinitum Annual Report (2018), only 1 in 8 bottles washed ashore the Norwegian coastline actually comes from Norway. How does it work?

According to Infinitum.No, all producers and importers of beverages, in either cans or plastic bottles have to register their products in the deposit system and pay a deposit to have their bottles labelled with the deposit symbol. Consumers can then return the labelled empty cans and bottles to a retailer, like a shop, kiosk or station, who then refunds their deposit paid on purchase. The empty bottles and cans are then returned for recycling.

The success of this scheme has also been attributed to investments in various collection systems, all of which benefit from the deposit refund revenue.

In these examples, it is clear that we need to establish effectively managed statutory schemes that will encourage more people, organizations and non-governmental organizations to play a significant role in efficient waste management.

If the success of Norway is anything to go by, adding value to waste at different levels of the recycling value chain, particularly on collection is the sure way of reducing the waste in our environment.

The Writer is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and the UN Global Compact Representative for Kenya. She can be reached at ceo@kam.co.ke.

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