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children with waste toys, kenya

Biffa & WasteAid Visit Kwa-Muhia, Kenya For First Community Project

Posted in Recycling
On 10 Jul 2019
By Jessica Keynes

1 in 3 people globally do not have access to a basic waste management, leading to environmental and public health concerns. The recent report, No Time To Waste, revealed every 30 seconds one person dies from diseases caused by mismanaged waste.

At a time when the issues of product design, ocean plastics and responsible waste management have never been more prominent, positive intervention has become imperative in tackling these challenges, which will continue and invariably get worse.

In April this year, we named WasteAid our charity partner, a UK based charity whose vision is ‘a world with equal access to waste services for all’. Biffa will provide financial, technical and fundraising support over the next three years to help with overseas projects. We will also provide opportunities for employees and customers to fundraise and help to make a positive difference in parts of the world where there are no structured waste management systems in place.

Wasteaid Biffa logo 

Discover WasteAid’s upcoming events and fundraising opportunities.

The waste situation in Kwa-Muhia, Kenya

Biffa recently supported a community recycling project in the village of Kwa-Muhia in Keyna, a project funded by UK Aid under the Small Charities Challenge Fund. Biffa Landfill Business Director, Dean Willett, and CEO of WasteAid, Mike Webster travelling there for a week to offer advice and support on implementing a waste management infrastructure. The project is managed through the Kwa-Muhia Environment Group (KMEG) which is made up of local community members. The funding WasteAid have secured will provide the means to purchase land for a recycling area and wages for a project manager and operatives.

Kwa-Muhia resides on the edge of Lake Navaisha, which provides fresh drinking water for Kwa-Muhia and the nearby towns and villages, water for the horticultural farms and neighbouring thermal electric power plants that provide 15% of Kenya’s electricity. The municipalities do not provide waste collection, instead use contractors to collect waste, who in turn charge plot owners and residents for collection. However, as most have barely sufficient funds to survive, paying for waste collection is very low down the priority list. 

It is estimated that 70% of unmanaged waste in Kwa-Muhia ends up in Lake Navaisha.

The waste (mostly plastics, organics, paper, glass) is dumped, burnt or washed into ditches which block, causing local flooding and stagnant water. The resulting effect on human health in Kwa-Muhia and the local villages is problematic, with many residents (mostly children) suffering from diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera.

Since KMEG started the clean up in January, the local healthcare worker said that the number of cases of diarrhoea in children has dropped 60%

children with waste toys, kenya

KMEG currently have a temporary site in the village, with an office, training room, works room and storage. The space is limited and only allows for some basic waste activities, which include; 

  • Storage of dry recyclables – glass, plastics, card/paper
  • Manufacture of drinking glasses from old bottles and briquettes from charcoal dust.

Local landowners have donated two acres of land on the outskirts of the village to build the community recycling centre. The recycling centre will need access, utilities and basic set up facilities but once complete the centre will manage a wider range of wastes, manufacturing of products for sale, bulking of plastics and other recyclables for sale and composting of organics providing sustainable waste management for the community.

Building a waste management network

During their week in Kenya, Dean, Mike and KMEG’s Project Manager, Duncan Oloo, visited several villages, initiatives and meetings, building up contacts for KMEG to send their bulked up recyclables to in the future, and undertake reciprocal arrangements and ideas for future waste and recycling activities.

Biffa team

Commenting on the visits, Dean said “There are some fantastic projects going on in Kenya such as Kamera village, who look after their own waste and volunteers collect from the plots or from community bins. Waste is recycled by tipping in the open, using the goats, chickens, cattle to eat any food and then collecting anything of value.

In Navaisha there are two sanitation facilities that turn human faecal waste into briquettes and a charcoal alternative. The first facility is a trial operation using solar to sterilise the waste. The second facility is a full-scale operation, taking the solids from tankers.

One of the most pressing issues, as you can see from the photos is the amount of plastic everywhere you go - we visited a plastic recycling facility in Gilgil, where the owner takes shredded plastics (all types), mixes them with sand and a dye and makes them into roof tiles – this kind of innovation and economic stimulus is very impressive.

dumping near lake kenya

However, Nakuru dumpsite can’t be called a landfill, as there is no engineering or management control. It’s just open land, where waste from 280,000 people is dumped. I was pleased to discuss landfill management and offer my expertise to a local official who was very interested in improving the site”.

Both WasteAid and Biffa believe that concentrating on health benefits of good waste management will be the greatest motivator for the residents of Kwa-Muhia, with environmental benefits and preservation of the Lake and species dependent upon it a close second.

For developing countries like Kenya, projects like KMEG need to have a business plan that makes and sells products from secondary materials to prevent their inappropriate disposal, along with the space to bulk materials and create an economy to sell them. The time spent visiting other villages, projects and meeting with local government officials has assisted KMEG in developing a local network for trade, and Biffa, along with WasteAid, looks forward to seeing and supporting the progress the project makes over the coming months and years.

Biffa WasteAid

About the author

Jessica Keynes

Jessica Keynes

Jess works with Biffa’s communications team to create interesting and diverse content for the industrial and commercial industry. Her favourite subject is sustainability, so keep an eye out for helpful tips!