Changing the Narrative on Waste Management in Kenya: A Young Entrepreneur’s Journey to a Plastic-Free City
Kenya’s capital city Nairobi generates about 2,400 tons of solid waste every day. Much of the waste is either burned or dumped illegally. However, 20% of this waste is in plastic form.
According to the World Bank, part of the problem is caused by poor waste management systems and an ever-growing urban population, an issue that is slowly becoming an environmental degradation concern in a city that hosts about 4.4 million people.
All this is happening amidst efforts by the government to fight plastic pollution. Remember, Kenya is a leader in the fight against plastic pollution and was among the first East African countries to implement the plastic ban.
Only 45% of waste generated in the City is Recycled
Of all the waste generated in the city, only 45% of it gets recycled or re-used in ways it can gain economic value, which is a far cry from the 80% target that the National Environmental Management Authority set.
Nzambi Matee is changing the narrative of plastic waste in Kenya. The 29-year-old entrepreneur makes paving slabs out of plastic waste by mixing them with sand before heating and compressing the mixture.
She’s been recognized as a change agent, who’s efforts are driving Kenya’s ability to realize the waste recovery target. Her company, Gjenge Makers Ltd, recycles waste plastic to develop affordable alternative building materials.
Gjenge makes 1,500 Bricks in a Day
Gjenge Makers Ltd produces 1,500 bricks in a day. The bricks come in a variety of shades. According to Nzambi, her bricks are stronger, lighter, and cheaper compared to conventional concrete bricks. Her company is looking to triple output with a new production line.
The idea to start her company was fueled by the need to push for local action.
“I was tired of being on the sidelines. You are just there waiting for someone to sort the plastic issue. You are just waiting for the government or the municipality or just someone else other than yourself,” Matee said in an interview with World Economic Forum.
Plastic waste is a big problem across much of Africa. In many countries, more than 80% of plastic waste is mismanaged. However, the fight to tackle this problem is gaining momentum.
Matee’s company, while helping solve waste management in the city, it supports the building of green and resilient cities, which is part of the World Bank’s Next Generation Africa Climate Business
Of all the waste generated in Nairobi city, only 45% of it gets recycled or re-used in ways it can gain economic value, which is a far cry from the 80% target that the National Environmental Management Authority set (Source.)