Why collaboration and cooperation is key to effective waste management

Waste is a resource that has high potential in providing employment and wealth generation opportunities. 

However, the conversation on waste cannot be concretized without addressing impediments to proper solid waste management. No wonder, ever so often, clean-up activities are carried out, and just recently, we celebrated the World Cleanup Day, to highlight the need for proper waste management, locally and globally.

As industry, we remain a core driver of waste management through the circular economy. Indeed, innovation is providing a means to realize this effectively.

Plastics recycling has promoted 3D product printing and provided opportunities for the creation of fabric in the textile sector. Glass recycling has proven worthy to eco-artists who are creating glamorous pieces of art such as recycled glass countertops and eye-popping chandeliers. Organic waste recycling has resulted in the production of high-quality organic fertilizers, beneficial to our agriculture sector, and the production of large capacity and domestic biogas energy. Manufacturers too are now seeking to redesign their products to enhance component reuse and recycling.

We must therefore seize such opportunities and encourage more innovations to ensure that we have continuous improvement in managing post-consumer waste. Central to this is a properly-outlined regulatory framework.

The Solid Waste Management Act, 2019 is a great step in addressing how the country takes account of its waste production and management. It outlines the guidelines and operating systems from the collection, transportation, segregation and the role of county governments in waste management. With its implementation, we are likely to see a great improvement in solid waste management in the country.

But even so, we continue to urge the government to establish clearly defined legislations that will promote the effectiveness of waste management, particularly on the establishment of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Schemes. By doing so, the government will provide an environment in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle, when a product turns into waste.

The Kenya Plastics Action Plan outlines the need to foster concepts of a circular economy to benefit the environment and the people, which will be achieved if we promote the creation of a model EPR.

EPR schemes have been implemented successfully in many parts of the world. The Netherlands, for instance, attained a 51% recycling rate of plastics against the EU target of 22.5% in 2017. This is, in part, due to the Afvalfonds Verpakkingen (Packaging Waste Fund), jointly established by manufacturers and importers in the country to promote extended producer responsibilities. The Fund is tasked with establishing and maintaining a waste management system to achieve national recycling targets and collaboration with communities to organise the collection and recycling of packaging. Notably, the tasks of collection, sorting and transportation of waste to recyclers are exclusively done by the municipalities.

Similarly, in February, this year, the Association of Manufacturers developed a Model Kenyan PRO Business Plan to support efforts towards accelerating a Circular Economy in the country. The Plan dubbed Kenya Plastic EPR Initiative, takes into consideration the recent draft of the Environmental Management and Coordination (Extended Producer Responsibility) Regulations, 2020, and seeks to outline the scope, strategies, and the necessary steps required for the establishment of a Producer Responsibility Organization.

It defines roles of waste value chain stakeholders and the role of the national and county governments in supporting legislation and supervision of the EPR system. The main objective of this initiative is to mobilize waste value chain stakeholders to implement extended producer responsibility schemes to address waste management and set national recycling targets from the 9% recorded in December 2019 to 15% by December 2020.

But, this can only be achieved if these stakeholders continue to innovate and work together in taking responsibility of managing waste in the country.

Harnessing the power of cooperation and collaboration will see us realize our circular economy and environmental conservation goals.

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.Why collaboration and cooperation is key to effective waste management

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