Let us boost our Plastics Recycling Industry

By Phyllis Wakiaga

The global conversation on plastic waste management continues to get heated by the day.

United Nations Environment continues to encourage Africa countries to establish policies to curb plastic pollution and establish a plastic- free continent (unenvironment.org). On the other hand, industries continue to advocate for reuse and recycle of plastic waste. The end result in either case is environmental conservation, therefore, it is clear that leveraging on waste management will ensure that we all establish an effective circular economy.

In Kenya, it is encouraging to see the government giving due consideration to plastic waste management. This was demonstrated in the recently read Budget Statement that gave two progressive proposals to incentivize recycling: The proposal to exempt from VAT all services offered to plastics recycling plants and supply of machinery and equipment used in the construction of recycling plants and the proposal to lower corporation tax for the first five years to 15% for any investors operating as plastic recycling plant. If implemented, these proposals will encourage more investment to explore the economic opportunities within the plastics recycling value chain.

Industry has continuously indicated that there is value in recycling plastics. In fact, the formation of PETCO Kenya is a clear demonstration of industries commitment to reducing plastic pollution. PETCO Kenya, the first Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Scheme, operates on the principle that companies who put products on the market are obliged to collect, sort and recycle their product once it has reached the end-of-life stage.

Even with the progressive success of PETCO Kenya, there still exists policy gaps that hinder its full potential. There currently does not exist legislation mandating PET manufacturers and users to join an EPR Scheme. Without such guiding policies, it is almost impossible to achieve a 100% recycling economy.

KAM’s Kenya Plastics Action Plan set to be launched in September this year provides an opportunity for the private sector to establish a collective position and propose solutions on plastic pollution. It is an essential strategic avenue that if fully implemented would significantly build Kenya’s plastics recycling sector.

Globally, Denmark has demonstrated the likely success of a similar Action Plan. The Danish government is set to launch the Danish Plastic Action Plan whose development was led by Danish Ministry of Environment and the Danish Plastic Federation. According to StateofGreen.com, the plan will encourage responsibility from producer to consumer and seeks to increase recycling of postconsumer plastics, by establishing standards for sorting and collection of plastics waste, through collection and sorting schemes.

Plastic still remains the most hygienic form of packaging.  With additional features of being light and inert – it is still preferred for industrial use. However, the current approach to using and disposing of plastics poses a threat to the environment.

The Kenya Plastics Action Plan will provide an enabling circular economy for the environmentally sustainable use and recycling of plastics in Kenya. With 3 main pillars – Inclusive and broad based stakeholder engagement, Policy recommendations that shall catalyze a circular economy in Kenya and Reduction of environmental pollution and establishing circular economy financing mechanisms – the Action Plan is an industry vision to achieve economic sustainability.

If properly executed, the Action Plan will result into formidable legislations that mandate manufacturers and importers of plastics to register to an EPR Scheme, licensing of waste collectors and recyclers to build business legitimacy, tax incentives for increased recycling and awareness on segregation of plastics.

Environmental conservation remains an objective for us all and plastics recycling has the potential to change our economic wellbeing. Our ambition is for the recycling value chain to be clearly defined and the necessary policies to be established and implemented in order to achieve our desired recycling goals of up to 70% of all plastics collected and recycled by 2020.

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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