The improper disposal of diapers in Taita Taveta County has been named as a serious health hazard.
Piles of these disposable baby materials in towns across the region are damaging the environment and contributing to the garbage crisis.
Some 80 per cent of waste collected by a group in Mwatate on Saturday consisted of soiled diapers and sanitary towels, said Stella Kidongi, a young environmentalist with the Rotaract club of Taita Taveta.
She said greater use of disposable diapers in Kenya is burdening the environment through pollution and the toxic chemicals used to make them.
Disposable diapers take between 250 and 500 years to decompose in landfills.
With single-use plastic carrier bags now banned, diapers have emerged as the most prevalent form of pollution in Taita Taveta.
"When I was growing up, there was no such menace. The diapers are depleting our landfills while some are being carried away by wind and animals like dogs and goats. It is a very worrying situation," she said.
Most parents, she said, are not aware of the adverse effects of the products on the surroundings because they do not concentrate on their disposal and decomposition.
Young people, especially those who are parents and those aspiring to have children, must help to save the environment, she said.
The environmentalist urged the government and all stakeholders to take action on diaper pollution.
"There should be strict laws to guide the disposal of such waste. Our lawmakers should come up with regulations to tame this lawlessness for the benefit of our environment and our health," she said.
Mwatate resident Agnes Maza said Kenyans should have a national conversation on how to improve waste collection, provide waste management facilities and find solutions for irresponsible diaper disposal.
She also said companies should adopt measures for proper disposal of their products and carry out community education programmes on their impact and how to properly manage the waste at home.
"The conversation should involve all stakeholders to seek ways of dealing with the menace. The companies are selling their products to us but they don't have a way of managing the soiled diapers,” she said.
“My proposal would be for the manufacturing companies to establish drop-off centres so that they can collect them and see how to dispose of them."
Agnes Mzera, a mother in Voi, said there is a widespread belief that the burning of baby diapers could cause skin rashes in children and eventually infertility when they grow older.
Mothers who buy into this myth dispose of diapers without burning them, thus choking the environment and contaminating water.
County Environment Chief Officer Sylvanus Mwakoma admitted that used diapers were becoming a major problem, saying his department is formulating a law to minimise it.
He said the county government has placed receptacles and garbage bins especially in big towns but noted that some locals still dispose of their garbage in undesignated areas.
"It is important for our people to be responsible for managing their waste. We will also see how to manage the waste through our cleaners across the county," he said.
Mwatate Rotary club chairperson Andrew Mwata said they will continue to mobilise the community for cleanup efforts.