It is estimated that Kenya generates between 3,000 to 4,000 tons of waste per day, majority of which originates from urban areas. According to World Bank, the country’s capital, Nairobi generates between 2,000 to 2,500 tons of waste day. The portion is significant to the total waste generated in the country as a result of the city’s dense population and high rate of urbanization. 70-80% of the waste generated in the country is organic, consisting of food waste, agricultural waste and yard waste, with the remaining waste consisting of inorganic waste such as plastic, paper and metal waste. Of the total waste generated, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that only about 10% of it is taken to designated disposal sites.
Waste in Kenya is commonly disposed in open dumpsites or informal landfills which often lack proper management and infrastructure (not properly lined, not compacted or covered. Often located in the outskirts of urban areas, where they pose environmental and public health hazards such as methane explosions, unpleasant odors, and attraction of disease carrying animals. Also since the waste is not properly sorted, composting or recycling it can be challenging. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Kenya has hundreds of landfills spread across the country with the Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi identified as the most popular in the country and among the largest unregulated landfills in Africa. The landfill covers approximately 30 acres of land and receives about 850 tons of waste generated daily by Nairobi which has a population of over 6million people as at 2021. Despite being declared full in 1996, to date dumping still continues to receive waste on a daily basis.
Currently, the country is experiencing serious challenges in waste collection, disposal and recycling. These challenges have resulted in environmental degradation, public health hazards and economic losses. Waste management in the country is a multifaceted problem caused by a number of issues. Infrastructure for effectively managing the solid waste including collection and disposal facilities as well as recycling and composting facilities is underdeveloped. Both government and local authorities have limited resources in waste management services. Existing laws and regulations governing waste management have weak enforcement measures, paving way for waste related offenses such as illegal dumping and littering. A significant portion of the waste management is by the informal sector, often controlled by powerful groups or individuals (cartels) who often promote illegal practices and corruption. Lack of public awareness on proper waste management practices such as reduce, reuse and recycle; and limited private sector involvement has derailed the sector’s evolution. Also impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts have disrupted waste management systems.
Addressing these challenges calls for a multifaceted approach that includes increasing investment in waste management infrastructure and services, strengthening regulations and enforcement, promoting public awareness and education, and encouraging the participation of the private sector and civil society in waste management.
Both the national and county government through National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) have been implementing policies and regulations to improve solid waste management and improve sustainability. These policies include, the National Solid Waste Management Strategy, Plastic Waste Management Regulations and The Waste Management Bill 2020 among others. The National Solid Waste Management Strategy curated by the government in collaboration with the private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) promotes sustainable waste management practices by encouraging participation from different stakeholders. The Plastic Waste Management Regulation introduced in 2017, prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of plastic bags less than 30 microns in thickness, and impose fines and penalties for littering and illegal dumping of plastic waste. The Waste Management Bill 2020 provides a legal framework for the management of solid waste in Kenya, including the collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of waste. It also sets out the responsibilities of different stakeholders, including the government, local authorities, private sector and citizens, in the management of waste.
Efforts towards formalization of the sector are evidenced by the government’s work on building modern waste management facilities such as incineration plants, composting and recycling plants in different parts of the country. Participation of private players and NGOs in through waste collection and disposal services, and recycling and composting of organic waste have been on upward trajectory. Notable players in the space include Takataka Solutions, Colnet Waste Management Company Ltd, Zoa Taka Waste Management Company Ltd, Tranbiz Solutions Ltd Kenya and Enviroserve Kenya Ltd among others.
Also through National Clean-up campaigns, complemented by local community based initiatives, the government has been raising awareness on the importance of proper waste management, and encouraging citizens to reduce, reuse and recycle. These campaigns involve cleaning up public spaces, such as beaches, rivers, and parks, and promoting the use of alternative materials to single-use plastics.
While these initiatives are commendable, the waste management situation in Kenya is still a work in progress, and much more needs to be done to improve the system and to achieve sustainable waste management in the country.