Kenya already has a National Waste Management Strategy and a couple of policies to guide waste management. Already, proper waste management is acknowledged as one of the areas we need to work on to achieve Vision 2030. We have all committed in the SDGs to “reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality, municipal and other waste management”. Everything is perfect on paper.
However, there have been tough challenges on the ground that have not been foreseen or addressed in these policies and guidelines. This could be highly attributed to the fact that there are unique challenges in each of these areas.
This article is not meant to disregard the effort being made by Kenyan companies such as Bamburi Cement and KBL, but to highlight some of the other ways we could improve our cities.
1. Technological Innovation in Waste Management – SONGDO, South Korea
The waste system in this city sucks waste (through pneumatic tubes) directly from the kitchen, through a network of underground tunnels and into treatment facilities. During treatment, the waste is automatically sorted, deodorized and then recycled or incinerated. In future, some of the household waste is intended to be converted to energy.
One of the major challenges faced in Kenya is the lack of access to garbage collection services. Garbage trucks are few and not able to access all parts of the major cities. One of the long-term projects considered would be to install smart systems in houses around the town in order to ease the pressure on the garbage trucks.
2. Efficient Waste-to-Energy Programs – SINGAPORE
Singapore, having a population of 5.31 million, produces approximately 19,862 tons of waste per day. This waste is turned into energy.
Three strategies applied include incineration, use of landfill and 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Incineration reduces waste volume by 90% and 10% is disposed into Singapore’s only landfill – Semakau landfill.
The incineration plants are fitted with advanced pollution control equipment to clean the gas from the combustion process. The heat from combustion is used to generate steam in boilers which drives turbines to produce electricity. The estimated energy output per day is 2,688 MWh per day. The incineration plants sell the electricity they produce and then use part of the energy to meet their demands.
Such programs are would not only be good for Kenya’s environment but for the economy. Most of the electricity in Kenya is produced from hydro- (water) or geo-(earth). An investment in a waste-to-energy program would kill two birds with one stone, that is having a clean environment and bringing good economic returns.
3. Empowered Waste Pickers – BUENOS AIRES, Argentina
Improving the living and working conditions of waste pickers is one of the ways to enhance garbage collection systems in the cities. In Buenos Aires, over 5,000 people now collect a base salary from the state, for waste management. These workers, who are well organized into cooperatives, work in city-built warehouses. They sort the waste in safer methods and are able to negotiate better prices with recycling companies. Although the city has a long way to go before meeting its goals (recycling 100% of its recyclable waste), this system has greatly improved waste management.
Kenya should think about empowering waste pickers, by being concerned about their health while collecting and also putting them on a payroll.
4. Making composting mandatory in SAN FRANCISCO, USA.
In their commitment to zero waste in 2002, San Francisco’s goal has been to divert 100% from the landfill by 2020. Eliminating waste that is neither recycled nor composted is one of the methods to achieve this. Apart from banning plastic bags, composting has been made mandatory.
In its latest move to ban the manufacture and sale of small plastic bottles of water on public property, the city authorities intend to install drinking fountains. Compostable cups will also be shared publicly. This scheme is being achieved by working with different stakeholders. Being way above 80% landfill diversion, San Francisco continues to work towards zero waste.
Kenya should integrate well thought out schemes and encourage strong political will in waste management.
5. Importing Waste – SWEDEN
Sweden imports around 800,000 tons of garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to be used in 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants. Their success in waste management is attributed to a shift in culture and attitudes in waste management since the 1970s. Waste is separated from the source before transporting it to the incinerator plants. Producers are also obligated by the law to cater for the costs in the collection and management of their products.
Kenya can learn a thing or two about efficiency in waste management. Waste conversion is profitable and can bring economic relief to the Kenyan economy.
How is Nairobi doing in terms of waste management? Check out the report – We Need To Do Better In Terms Of Waste Management In Nairobi County