Let’s strengthen our will towards a circular economy

By Martin Ochien’g

Rapid urbanization and development have led to an increase in consumption of products and waste generation in the country and across the globe. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) projects that by 2025, the world cities will produce 2.2 billion tonnes of waste every year, more than three times the amount produced in 2009. This calls for immediate actions to sustainably manage waste.

The perception of waste as an unwanted material with no intrinsic value has dominated attitudes towards proper waste disposal. Yet, waste is a critical resource with the potential to transform the lives of Kenyans through the creation of jobs and wealth. The challenge in waste management is multifaceted, ranging from recycling, generation of waste, separation, behaviour change, collection, transport, treatment, reuse, and disposal. It is a problem that must involve all stakeholders at diverse levels, from households, traders, manufacturers, private sector companies and governments. Every individual has a role to play to make this world a better place. The UNEP proposes three key steps to address waste challenge: establishing control over waste;  implementing environmentally sound management of waste; and moving towards circularity by considering waste as a secondary resource.

Cognizant of this, the manufacturing sector is committed to transitioning to green manufacturing for sustainable development. We are witnessing more manufacturers embed circular economy and sustainability in their operations, for instance, sustainable waste management practices. Adopting a circular economy is 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.

Circular economy is based on three principles: eliminating waste and pollution; circulating products and materials; regenerating nature. It creates solutions to the challenges we are currently facing locally and internationally, such as climate change and biodiversity loss whilst addressing important social needs. Its continuous implementation has provided world economies with unprecedented opportunities, through the creation of reverse logistics networks, new processes, and new industries using the recovered resources. Denmark, for instance, incinerates its waste to generate district heating and electricity. They continue to perfect this technology year on year, towards the production of clean electricity for their citizens. Whilst doing so, Denmark continues to ensure that the operation of these plants has the lowest environmental impact possible.

Therefore, accelerating the transition to a circular economy is one of the surest ways of securing the future of our planet for generations to come. It cuts across every stage of the value chain and touches on energy use, sourcing of raw materials, production, distribution, and waste management.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) continues to partner with liked-minded organizations to shape the conversation on circular economy and to bring out the various solutions available towards the realization of circular approaches where reduction, re-use, recycle and elimination of waste are at the centre stage. One such initiative is the LOOP Forum, which seeks to showcase circular innovative solutions, catalyse policy dialogues, and establish business to business collaborations to transition Kenyan economy from a linear to circular model. The Forum aims to accelerate a circular transition together with all the stakeholders and partners being part of the process.

During the inaugural LOOP Forum held last year, three key aspects were discussed. First, the need to have proper, clear, realistic, and full operational regulations in waste management and more so towards circular economy to allow for faster transition from linear economy towards circular economy. Second, the need for entities to form partnerships, be it international, local or between the government and the private sector as this is a sure way to transition towards circular economy. Lastly, the need for all stakeholders to work together for the transition to the circular economy to be realized and for cleaner production to take place.

This year’s forum, taking place this week seeks to establish a platform to facilitate exchange of knowledge, solutions, and build networks amongst relevant stakeholders; showcase cross-sector innovations, business to business collaborations and investment opportunities; build awareness on cleaner production methods and wider societal, environmental, and economic benefits of a circular economy; and explore intervention for skills development and job creation to support Kenya’s transition to circular economy.

We need to strengthen our will towards a circular economy through various efforts, as a nation, including inculcating it in our education system from the primary level. As individuals, we need to cultivate strong ethos of respecting and protecting our environment and natural resources, for better living. Most importantly, we must collaborate with other players such as government regulators, waste collectors, recyclers, and the public for a successful transition.

The writer is the Chair of KAM Environment and Sustainability Committee. He can be reached at info@kam.co.ke.

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