Kenya launches the Sustainable Waste Management Policy (2021)

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia
The launch was presided over by Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forestry Kenya who was franked by Ministers in charge of Environment from Denmark and Seychelles. The banners in the background shows stakeholders who supported development of the SWM Policy.

Since 2016, Kenya has been developing the Sustainable Waste Management Policy and Bill. This journey came to an end on 4th March 2022 when the SWM Policy was launched at UNEP HQ in Gigiri to mark 50 years of UNEP. This was done at a side event convened by the Ministry of Environment and her stakeholders on “Transition from Linear to Circular Economy in Kenya”.

Development of the SWM Policy was motivated by the sustained environmental degradation promoted by the linear waste management model. Waste generators mix all waste together and this is transported to dumpsites, normally in contaminated state, making it difficult to recover valuable waste fractions. Hence Kenya has very low recycling rates for waste. The SWM Policy proposes to transition waste management in Kenya from linear to circular model.

Earlier efforts in waste management include legislation such as the Environmental Management and Coordination Act 1999 (Revised 2015), Waste Management Regulations (2006) Waste Management Strategy (2015). NEMA also issued a 10 point plan to Counties to enhance waste management in 2016.

Section 3 of EMCA, stipulates that, “Every person in Kenya is entitled to a clean and healthy environment and has a duty to safeguard and enhance the environment”. The EMCA (1999) Section 87 provides for prohibition against dangerous handling and disposal of wastes. Discharge or disposal of any wastes, whether generated within or outside Kenya, in such manner as to cause pollution to the environment or ill health to any person is prohibited. Transportation of waste is only done by those licensed to do so by NEMA, and disposal can only be done at sites licensed by NEMA. Every person whose activities generate wastes is obligated to employ measures essential to minimize wastes through treatment, reclamation and recycling. In this regard, the value chains embodied in circular economy concepts are not fully covered.

The Waste Management Regulations 2016 provides for the responsibility of the generator, whereby Regulation 4(2) states that, “Any person whose activities generate waste shall collect, segregate and dispose or cause to be disposed off such waste in the manner provided for under these Regulations”. Regulation 6 on the Segregation of waste by a generator states that, “(1) Any person whose activities generate waste, shall segregate such waste by separating hazardous waste from nonhazardous waste and shall dispose of such wastes in such facility as is provided for by the relevant Local Authority”. This regulation hence also fails to provide for all the waste value chains within the circular economy model.

The SWM Policy and bill is developed to cure this gap in waste management whereby waste is considered as a resource as well as promoting harnessing of opportunities existing within the entire value chain, that is waste generation, segregation, storage, transport, processing, reuse, recycling, treatment and safe disposal in an engineered sanitary landfill. The policy further delineates the role of diverse players including national and county governments, private sector, civil society and individuals. This is the first document to provide these details for all players and the entire value chain for waste.

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