Why you will soon pay Sh20,000 for improper waste disposal

Garbage Collection

A woman walks through a dumpsite at Magongo mainland in Mombasa. Mombasa is one of the counties that continue to grapple with waste management.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

Kenyans will soon be subjected to hefty fines if they do not sort the garbage from their homes into different categories before disposing.

This regulation will be implemented if President Uhuru Kenyatta assents the Sustainable Waste Management Bill, 2021 that has now been passed by the two houses.

The green light from the Senate last week now puts Kenyans at risk of paying a fine of Sh20, 000 or a jail term of not less than six months (or both) for not separating organic wastes from recyclable wastes when disposing trash in their households.

Speaking in a symposium organised by the Embassy of Japan yesterday, Dr Ayub Macharia, director Environmental Education and Awareness said that the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy will be a game changer for waste management in the country.

“The linear waste management model was a problem because we mixed all forms of waste making it hard to segregate them for recycling.

It is also the reason for the many landfills popping up even in residential areas.

The same landfills affect the climate since they produce greenhouse gases,” he said.

“People say that the circular economy will lead to job losses, in fact, we will need more people to capture the innovation that comes with this model,” explained.

Open dumpsites

The law, if enacted will allow waste pickers to be contracted and be recognised by the government among other measures such as avoidance of open dumpsites which are hazardous to people’s health. 

County governments will be required to license and regulate private garbage collectors as stipulated in the bill.

However, Dr Macharia yesterday said that most counties are not ready for the circular economy because people may not comply with the garbage collection fee that will help in running the new model.

Ibrahim Otieno, environmental expert working with the Nairobi Metropolitan Services said that Nairobi wished to adopt the Waste Management Act in 2015 but it could not materialise because there were no laws to back it at the time.

“With the passing of the bill at the Senate, we will now have a chance to revise our Act and fit in the bill. This new approach will be disruptive but it is a good thing since the value chain for waste management will be easily traced,” he said.

Once the bill is passed, there will be a Waste Management Council whose chair will be appointed by the president to oversee and ensure that waste is managed sustainably.

Circular economy plan

The council will also ensure that the budget includes resources that will help in rolling out the circular economy plan on waste management.

“We need to bring up behaviour change by rolling out an extensive awareness campaign. For instance, people should understand that the money from garbage collection will be paid to the individual people –the garbage collectors and their private companies. We need our model to be free from cartels. We do not want politicians to come and mess with the plan,” said Dr Macharia.

Richard Kainika, Secretary General of the Kenya Association of Waste Recyclers said that in order to maximise value extraction from waste, consumers need to be educated on how to separate the garbage.

“People should know where to place the wet waste and the dry waste. When we separate waste at source, then we are able to minimise insecurity at dumpsites. Recyclers should also have the tools for recycling so as to achieve the required goal. We are looking forward to a total change of the business ecosystem,” he said.

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