According to a 2018 World Bank report, it is estimated that up to 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) are being generated annually, with the same expected to grow to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario.
The report further states that the quantity of waste generated grows with socioeconomic development, and as the population in cities becomes denser, acute public health and environmental problems are bound to become commonplace.
With an urban growth rate of more than 4.23%, it is projected that more than half of the total population of Kenya will be living in urban areas by 2025.
The urban population statistics summarize the reasons why a national discourse on sustainable waste management cannot be ignored.
While there have been noticeable concerted efforts to address the waste debacle including a range of policy interventions culminating in the ratification of the Sustainable Waste Management Act in July 2022, the reality on the ground paints a grim picture as to the realization of the vision embodied by drafters of the said legislative pieces.
Research has shown that the benefits of legislation can only go as far as enforcement of the same is concerned and the installation of appropriate systems and infrastructure.
Curiously, while the recent changes in the legislative framework were intended to accelerate Kenya’s realization of a circular economy, the country is still far from achieving its dreams if the less than 10% national recycling rates are anything to go by.
As a citizenry, we must be constantly aware of the statement by one of the national leaders that being in this country renders one a candidate for death.
How about lessening the death threat by addressing such issues as waste which poses a direct and existential threat to our lives?
One step to contributing towards sustainable waste management practices can start from our households.
Effective waste separation can significantly improve resource utilization and reduce environmental pollution, contributing to good public health, carbon emission reduction, and sustainable urban development.
Withal, the success of the Sustainable Waste Management Act 2022 is heavily reliant on the segregation of waste at source and places various legal consequences for entities engaging on the contrary.
The public must be deliberate on not being inclined to free-rider behaviour and instead, take charge of their waste for the benefit of the current and future generations.
Decision makers across the waste value chain must realize that an increase in social cohesion and the solid quality of institutions represent the right path toward the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy.
Beyond enforcement, let us take advantage of the existing social capital within our populace to push for a change in dogmatic tendencies as far as waste management in the country is concerned.
Maintenance of the status quo means that the plastic PET bottle you disposed of the last time you were in a restaurant will remain a constant environmental threat to humanity for the next 500 years.
The writer is the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) at the Kenya Extended Producer Responsibility Organization (KEPRO).