Waste disposal law is a call to action on climate change

A man recycles plastic waste in a Nairobi factory

A man recycles plastic waste in a Nairobi factory. Kenya has made significant strides in mitigating the effects of climate change by enacting various environmental laws and undertaking various environmental actions.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The climate change threat affects every country but some are more vulnerable than others.

Kenya is one of them, facing the impacts of rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, droughts, floods, sea level rise and pests. These have dire consequences for the natural environment, socioeconomic development and human well-being.

Our economy depends largely on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, livestock, tourism, forestry and fisheries, which account for about 33 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and provides livelihoods for millions.

Climate change threatens to undermine these sectors and increase poverty, food insecurity, water scarcity, health risks and conflicts.

Kenya has made significant strides in mitigating the effects of climate change by enacting various environmental laws and undertaking various environmental actions. One is the Sustainable Waste Management Act, 2022, establishing the Waste Management Council to coordinate its implementation.

The Act requires county governments to collect segregated waste from households and transport it to material recovery facilities or recycling plants. It also provides for mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR), which requires producers and importers of certain products to collect and recycle them at the end of the life cycle.

The private sector, in collaboration with NGOs, is participating in sustainable waste management through fair recycling, which integrates informal and marginalised waste recyclers into a formalised plastics recycling value chain. This has resulted in climate protection, biodiversity conservation, health improvement, decent work and education in the recycling sector.

Community leaders must be proactive in asking the public to recycle plastics as their contribution to mitigating climate change. For instance, the Catholic Church has been very prominent in calling for action to mitigate climate change, such as asking its members to practice the 3Rs: Reduce, reuse, recycle. 

Protect the human family

Pope Francis, in his July 13, 2022, message to participants of a Vatican conference on climate change, said: “In working together, men and women of goodwill can address the scale and complexity of the issues that lie before us, protect the human family and God’s gift of creation from climate extremes and foster the goods of justice and peace.”

Fair recycling not only reduces environmental impacts but also creates jobs and income opportunities and supports destigmatisation for waste recyclers and people in need. It also supports the circular economy, which aims at minimising waste and maximising resource efficiency.

Fighting climate change is not only a matter of urgency but also an opportunity. By taking action, Kenya can avoid the worst impacts of climate change and seize the benefits of sustainable waste management. It can also contribute to the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels. Fighting climate change is not only possible but also desirable.

Mr Onzere is the project manager-Fair Recycling, Danish Refugee Council (DRC). [email protected]. @drckenya