Why sustainable chemical waste management is critical

By Phyllis Wakiaga,

The African Industrialization Day, being celebrated this week, under the theme Promoting Regional Value Chains in Africa provides us with an opportunity to contemplate and brainstorm how to pursue Kenya’s Industrialization Agenda in a sustainable way.

Industrialization is key to our economic sustainability. As a matter of fact, Industry 4.0’s progress is an indicator of the growing need for industrialization in our development focus in the future. However, the global discussions on the increasing scarcity in environmental resources are weighty and consequently the tenor on remedies to counter these effects in production processes needs to be raised.

Hence, while industrialization plays a critical role in job creation, poverty eradication and economic growth, the same needs to be replicated in its role in promoting a cleaner and safer environment.

It is on this note that industry is making strides to ensure environmental protection in its practices in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 on Good Health, 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities, as well as 12 on Responsible Consumption. Innovation and process optimization have continued to pave the way to new and better solutions for a cleaner production, efficient resource management and waste management.

Chemicals are integral in our lives from use in agricultural chemicals, manufacture of medicines, home maintenance, personal use, among others. Additionally, the Chemical sector creates productive jobs through value and supply chains in other sectors. A sustainable chemical sector, therefore, plays a critical role in the implementation and enhancement of sound environmental management for the achievement of the SDGs. Sustainable chemical use ensures that industries promote the value of safer chemicals along the production and value chain whilst reducing risks.

Some of the challenges that Kenya has experienced in chemical management include the lack of specific policy for chemicals management, low awareness and information flow, an inadequate system for information exchange on chemicals hazard, low inventory on chemicals and risk along the supply chain of chemicals management, according to a 2016 Baseline Study on Chemicals Management in Kenya.

Through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) program and with Kenya Association of Manufacturers as an implementing partner, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has made strides to develop sound policies on chemical management and reduction of unintentionally produced organic pollutants.

To further promote sustainable chemical practices, it is also critical that we enhance the safety of employees, consumers, and the environment. At the same time, we need to strengthen human and infrastructural capacities enabling them to effectively engage in chemical risk reduction.

Currently, there exists regulations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007 that promote the health and safety at the workplace. But going a step further, we need to initiate public awareness forums on chemical waste management initiatives in both county and national level.

The development of a sound National Chemical Policy and the implementation of a chemicals management roadmap will also drive sustainable chemical practices. The Draft Toxic and Hazardous Industrial Chemicals and Materials Regulations, 2018 is a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, self-regulation also plays a huge role in chemical waste management. To pursue this, KAM partnered with the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) to promote Responsible Care® in the country. We are proud to be the first African Country to undertake the Responsible Care initiative in the East African Region.

Responsible Care, one of the largest industry-driven waste management initiative, is a voluntary commitment by the global chemical industry to drive continuous improvement and achieve excellence in environmental, health and safety and security performance.

The global initiative that was started in Canada in 1985 is currently practised in 68 economies around the world. Between 1988 and 2016, responsible care companies reduced hazardous releases to the air, land and water by 84%.
This is also achievable in Kenya. Such industrial driven initiatives will play a huge role in realizing the Big 4 Agenda whilst promoting industrial growth.

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

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