Nairobi, 14 June 2022 -- A project by UN-Habitat and the UN Environment Programme in Kenya's Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP) region bring efficiency to a burgeoning waste collection and management system, decrease environmental hazards on the land and protect the nearby marine coastal areas.

The project will cover Taita Taveta County and the sub-counties of Voi, Mwatate, Wundanyi, and Taveta.

The findings of a recent survey showed that county generates approximately 190 tonnes of municipal solid waste every day. Out of this, only about 30 per cent is collected, while the majority, 70 per cent, is left in the environment.

The low collection rate could be attributed to the fact that there is no private sector involvement in the waste collection value chain and the county’s collection capacity is limited because there is no cost recovery mechanism since waste generators are not adequately charged for collection services.

This low collection coverage results in approximately 2,400 tonnes of plastic waste left in the environment annually, out of which 1,048 tonnes (44 percent) end up in water systems through drainage channels since most of the population without collection services dump their waste in storm drains.

An important survey finding was that the seasonal Voi River originates from Taita Hills and flows past Voi town before finally emptying into the Indian ocean. This is because all storm drains in Voi sub-county are connected to the Voi River. Therefore, it is possible that a significant quantity of plastic waste originating from Taita Taveta is ending up in the Indian ocean during the rainy seasons.

The application of 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is essential for the reduction and prevention of environmental pollution. In addition, in upcoming economies, 3Rs are important in the creation of employment in the formal and informal sectors of the waste value chain. Unfortunately, in Taita Taveta county, only 1 percent of the waste is recovered for recycling hence boosting 3Rs is one of the priorities of the programme.

In this regard, UN-Habitat envisions establishing a waste recovery facility at Chakaleri dumpsite, the main dumpsite serving three of the four sub-counties in Taita Taveta county- Voi, Mwatate and Wundanyi.

A group of waste pickers, 11 women and 4 men operating at this site, say there are positive and negative aspects to their work.

UN-Habitat project to improve municipal solid Waste management in Kenya’s coastal area

On the one hand, it is their source of livelihood but, on the other hand, there are numerous challenges including smoke, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), the low market price of recyclables, expensive transportation of recyclables to market, and lack of water to wash recyclable materials as demanded by their customers. They said they are elated about the UN-Habitat project and are hopeful that having a resource recovery facility that adds value to their raw materials at the site would solve the majority of these challenges and improve 3Rs in general.

 However, noting that the dumpsite is open and constantly on fire which starts spontaneously because of methane reaction, there is a need to also prioritise the public health and environmental protection by improving the dumpsite prior to establishing the recovery facility.

On the governance aspects, Taita Taveta county lacks any legal framework and plans (policy, strategy, regulations, Bill, Act, guidelines) for Solid waste management at the local level. Legal frameworks that are enforceable and plans/strategies are paramount for improving solid Waste Management in any context. Therefore, one of the key outcomes of the programme will be to develop a well-informed long-term and sustainable solid waste management strategy for Taita Taveta county.