Expanded responsibility for waste management in Kenya

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia

Waste management in Kenya faces several bottlenecks and that’s why waste still remains a menace in our vicinity. The challenges includes the following:-

  • Waste is treated as “unwanted nuisance” and not as a resource.
  • Lack of sorting at source
  • Linear movement of waste from source to dumpsite
  • Inadequate guidance for devolved county waste governance
  • Emerging waste regimes not adequately legislated
  • Inadequate legislation to ensure financial sustainability
  • Polluter pay principle is weakly legislated
  • Poor incentives options and motivation for best practices
  • Mandatory investments in waste management at County level not legislated
  • Waste movement across counties not encouraged
  • Waste management reporting framework is lacking
  • Knowledge and information systems are weak

These shortcomings prompted the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in consultation with Counties and other stakeholders to come up with the three documents to guide waste management and these includes the Sustainable Waste Management Policy, Bill and the Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations.

These three documents are guided by the circular economy principles which is a radical departure from the current practice where nobody wants to touch waste once generated, but is transferred to dumpsites. In the circular economy dispensation, every citizen, corporate, county government and national government has a role to play. These roles are clearly documented in the waste policy and bill.

The new policy and bill proposes new measures to curb the waste menace in Kenya. It redefines waste as a contributor to economic growth opportunity rather than a problem through promotion of green entrepreneurship, technology transfer, green jobs and wealth creation by creating value from waste.

The Policy gives a holistic view of waste lifecycle from its source of generation, production, consumption, handling to end of life and roles of the different actors and stakeholders in the value chain. It shifts focus from traditional 3R – reduce, reuse and recycle of the waste management cycle   to   nationwide adoption of waste hierarchy and circular economy. It proposes the adoption of a legally binding waste hierarchy approach for sustainable waste management in Kenya. The waste management hierarchy provides an order of priority of environmental actions for waste management and   includes measures to prevent generation of waste, prolong declaration of materials as waste through re-use, recycling and composting for re-circulation of extracted materials back to the economic loop.  It therefore redefines waste to be that which is contaminated and cannot be used again and distinguishes it from materials extracted from waste. It considers waste as a mine of materials extraction.

The policy envisions the extraction and accounting for total value for waste. A plan for unlocking circular economy and a favourable environment for spurring recycling will be created. The government will also enhance markets for recycled products locally by setting appropriate standards and encouraging procurement of recycled products. In addition, the compost fertilizer standards will be developed and efforts done to secure 40% of compost fertilizer mainstreamed in the national fertilizer subsidy.

The policy shifts responsibility of waste management from government and waste service providers and commits all waste generators including individual households, property owners and caretakers, institutions and establishments. The citizens have been assigned a critical role in waste management since they will be required to reduce waste generated, reuse waste, sort waste at source and contribute towards waste management through payment for services rendered. All public events organisers shall engage the services of a licensed waste collector to collect and manage the waste generated during such events.

The policy also places emphasis on economic incentives that promote effective waste management including, systems of deposit and return, recycling incentives, deposit refund schemes, and extended producer responsibility for producers and traders. This further implies an exponential increase in investment in waste management from manufactures and traders unlike in the past when this was a state role.


Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) 2021 National Sustainable Waste Management Policy.

Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) 2021 Sustainable Waste Management Bill.

Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) 2021 Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations.

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