Choking on waste, Kenya finds hope in recycling

At Dandora, a dumpsite in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the acrid tang of burning plastic hangs heavy in the air.

Towering mountains of assorted waste, from plastic bottles and metal cans to overflowing bags of organic matter, dominate the landscape, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The area serves as a symbol of Kenya’s burgeoning waste crisis, a formidable challenge that equally bustling cities like Nairobi also face, along with peri-urban towns and villages in the country.

According to the chief executive officer of the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC), Joseph Murabula, this burden has taken the form of a staggering “3,000 to 4,000 tons of waste produced daily.”

This immense volume, coupled with a national infrastructure deficit hindering proper disposal, recycling, and treatment facilities, has created a concerning situation, says Murabula.

“The bulk of the waste is in the urban centers in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru and Kisumu, but about half of the 3,000 to 4,000 tons of daily waste is actually in Nairobi,” he added.

Inadequate waste management contributes significantly to health crises and environmental degradation in the East African nation, polluting land and water resources.

Communities living near overflowing landfills like Dandora bear the brunt of the problem, exposed to harmful toxins and a resulting increased risk of respiratory illness.

But, according to Murabula, people are now “seeing opportunities around the waste management sector.”

“The market opportunity in Kenya is about $54 billion,” he said.

“What that number shows is that that is the most promising sector of all the green sectors we have. The $54 billion is probably a bigger market opportunity than you have in agribusiness, renewable energy, water, and forestry.”


Murabula said Kenyan companies are pioneering innovative solutions, demonstrating the potential to mitigate the crisis.

Takataka Solutions is one such company, founded on the principle of harnessing waste through recycling and upcycling.

“We have not only created employment opportunities for over 700 individuals, but we also collect over 90 tons of waste daily, encompassing all types except for medical waste.

“Importantly, organic waste is transformed into valuable compost, providing a sustainable solution,” said Brian Sagala, head of marketing at Takataka Solutions.

Operating in the Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Takataka Solutions collects waste from homes, businesses, and industrial facilities to then sort at their facilities.

According to Sagala, the sorting allows them to recycle 95% of the waste. Plastic containers are transformed into valuable flakes and pellets for local manufacturers, organic waste is composted into a natural soil amendment, and other materials like paper, cardboard, and glass are directed to specialized partners for responsible recycling.

This model not only diverts waste from landfills but also creates a circular economy within Kenya, generating employment in different companies involved in the cycle.

Trash for profit

Taka Bank, unlike traditional banks, is not about money.

It is a community-driven initiative in Dandora, launched by Dandora Hip-hop City and the Mr. Green Africa Initiative, that sets up collection kiosks where residents can bring their recyclable waste like plastic bottles, paper, and metal.

Residents become “depositors” and dedicated youth working at the kiosks sort the collected waste into different categories.

This sorted waste then becomes Taka Bank’s “currency,” sold to recycling companies to generate income for the initiative.

It is a win-win for all sides as the residents get “tokens,” a form of local currency, for every kilogram of waste they deposit.

These tokens can be redeemed for essential goods and services like food, cooking fuel, and even rent and school fees.

“Not only do we contribute to cleaning up our neighborhood and protecting the environment, but we also empower our fellow residents,” Marvine Okal, who operates a Taka Bank shop in Dandora, told Anadolu.

“Seeing the positive impact of our efforts, from the cleaner streets to the smiles on people’s faces when they redeem their tokens, motivates me every day to continue this important work.”

Source: Anadolu Agency

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *