Role of Kenyan citizens in realization of circular economy in waste management

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has spearheaded development of a Sustainable Waste Management (SWM) Policy and Bill that were approved by Cabinet on 25th February 2021. This Policy and Bill root for a radical transformation in waste management from linear to circular economy.

According to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Regulations (2021), circular Economy refers to initiatives for designing and redesigning out waste from products, extraction of maximum value from natural resources, closing of material loops and creation of new value from materials that would otherwise have been wasted

According to the SWM Policy (2021), citizens are key players in the management of waste. They are consumers of goods and services, generators of waste, main players of waste minimization and sorting at source. Their participation or lack thereof, determines the success or failure of the adoption and implementation of waste management initiatives.

The shift from disposal of mixed waste at household level to “sorting of waste at source” is a new paradigm shift which the citizens need to embrace. The citizens generate recyclable materials, organic and other complex waste which going forward will have to be segregated and disposed appropriately, and this is key in the realization of sustainable waste management.

Citizens are expected to play a major role in waste management under the new provisions of the circular economy. Some of their roles includes

  1. Segregation of waste at source – by having differently colored bins at home and using them appropriately.
  2. Paying for waste management services – they must subscribe with NEMA licensed waste handlers to transport their waste from their homes to the material transfer stations or composting sites.
  3. Monitor compliance to the law and report illegal waste dumping.
  4. Not burning waste since this is harmful in terms of producing toxic fumes such as furans and dioxins.
  5. Not dumping waste in non-designated places
  6. Keeping the areas near the homesteads clean
  7. No disposal of mixed waste

For the citizens to participate actively in playing these roles, there is need for enhanced education and awareness for behavior change. Diverse stakeholders have been flagged out as key players in promoting waste management education and awareness, and these include:

  1. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry especially on policy, bill and EPR regulations. The Ministry has finalized development of Curriculum guidelines on mainstreaming waste management in curricula at all levels. Capacity building for curriculum developers will be done to ensure that learners at all levels are well trained on waste management.
  2. NEMA especially on compliance and enforcement of the policy, bill and EPR regulations.
  3. Counties are mandated by the Constitution of Kenya to be in charge of refuse removal, refuse dumps and solid waste disposal. They have to promote education and awareness on waste sorting, receptacles and color codes for different wastes, cleanliness, Material transfer facilities, appropriate transportation and disposal.
  4. The EPR regulations 2021 directs product and packaging producers to establish Producer Responsibility Organizations to administer EPR obligations. The PROs are obligated to run public awareness programmes on how to manage products and packaging under the EPR programmes.
  5. The SWM Policy and Bill obligates the waste service providers such as waste collectors and transporters to run sensitization programmes to their customers on the need to segregate their waste at source and appropriate receptacles for different waste streams.

It is imperative that the transition to circular economy in Kenya has been documented in the Policy, Bill and the EPR regulations and diverse stakeholders will play diverse roles including promoting citizen education on appropriate waste management. Public awareness, participation and behavior change will be key in Kenya’s transition to circular economy.

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