I’ve written about this a lot and it just keeps coming back to the fore. Like Cancer, we have to address the root cause of the problem, not simply administer palliative care to damp down the manifestations that occur as a result of our lifestyles.
Kenya is an incredible place to learn from. Western excesses are a result of forgetting our roots. Trouble is we, and the planet, need those roots to survive and luckily Africa was the original root and still has a lot of it left. With a little passion and intelligence its easy to ignore the ignorance that comes with too much comfort and get on with finding sustainable solutions.
“..if all the 172,800 tons per year of plastics that litter Nairobi were collected by youths and value added for sustainable solutions like fencing posts, housing panels, bags, shoes and even clothing it would create an 8 Billion Kenyan Shilling a year industry” [UNEP.org 2006].
What figure would that be today? Add to this the increased personal economy of so many “collectors” and their families with a decent income, better standard of living, offering kerbside collection rather than sifting through dumpsites. 300 x bicycle/ trailer outfits can definitely get around Nairobi quicker than 30 gas-guzzling road-blocking collection trucks. Xtracycle already have a solution; a much healthier, cheaper solution creating its own business opportunity if manfactured in Kenya. A solution with a ten-fold increase in wealth to all.
Keeping plastics out of dumpsites itself is an enviable goal and the cities and outlying communities are perfectly capable of adapting to a recycling mentality. Charging a plastic bag levy will tax the lazy – there’s plenty to smile about strategies like that. It wasn’t so long ago that the UK returned our Coke bottles and bottles caps for reuse, washing out our milk bottles and returning them to the milkman for a cheaper pint was something even I was doing a couple of years ago. Now I’m throwing away 10 x 1L plastic containers a week! Luckily the majority of Africans aren’t so comfortable that the ‘CBA’ mentality has taken hold, or maybe they’re just lucky enough to still live in a rural community. Development is pulling a 360 now. We’re finally realising the benefits of living more sustainable cleaner lives and those that haven’t even got to the industrialised part of the cycle yet don’t need to bother.
Its really quite simple. Communities start their own initiatives and governments pay collectors for what they bring to municipal processing plants. Simple. Right?
So why aren’t even middle-class UK districts doing it?
Why is it that Germany is way ahead of everyone in sustainability, in recycling, in solar power? Why are we dragging our heels?
Kenya should now seize the day and push for wide reform empowering its masses to take the initiative, providing incentives to use available solutions for their own gain. The govt should be supporting communities to manage well, manage honestly and should be providing access to technology and transportation and the ability to exchange ideas and collaborate to evolve better and safer methods for a global problem.
I’ve looked through the United Nations Environment Program Comprehensive Waste Management Strategy and it fails in one key area. You don’t need 120 Million Kenyan Shillings to “do this”. That said, funding agencies like the CDTF should never be closed to applications.
We continue to hope to bring some of these initiatives to full working status.