Coping with the waste we’re all creating every day isn’t the most immediately enticing of topics when it comes to international development.
But, when waste management is done right, it can be essential to achieving many of the UN’s Global Goals — 17 goals that work together to end extreme poverty by 2030. These include goals for health and well-being for everyone, access to water and sanitation facilities for everyone, and creating cities and communities that are sustainable.
That’s why the UK-based charity WasteAid is working to encourage recycling initiatives in developing countries — to create green jobs, protect the environment, and help keep people safe and healthy.
Now, with support from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), WasteAid will be launching a new recycling centre in Kenya, working with local partners to get communities involved in safe waste management.
Kwa Muhia, where the centre will be based, is an informal settlement of about 7,000 people, just north of Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi.
Most of the residents work on nearby flower farms producing cut flowers for UK supermarkets, according to the charity. It points out, however, that Kwa Muhia is a “polluted and unhealthy place to live.”
That’s because, in the settlement, there are no formal sanitation or waste management facilities. And it’s having a significant impact on a nearby lake, Lake Naivasha.
“The conservation status of Lake Naivasha is under threat from plastic pollution from the community, and agricultural runoff from the nearby flower farms,” said WasteAid in a statement.
The first step for the initiative is to set up a waste collection service for a range of materials, and then use these materials to create products that can be sold to generate income.
By keeping the waste off the streets, the project will also help keep the local community safe by reducing the diseases spread by uncollected rubbish — particularly for the young children who play on the rubbish dumps.
WasteAid will be working with the Kwa Muhia Environmental Group (KMEG), a community group in the settlement, to implement the programme.
“Waste is a serious problem in Kenya,” said Duncan Oloo, KMEG project manager. “Thanks for the funding from UK Aid Direct, and support from WasteAid, the Kwa Muhia Environmental Group will be able to clean up our informal settlement and convert waste into wealth.”
“We are reaching out to all members of the community to help us and we are working with the less advantaged to help us in our mission towards zero waste,” he added. “Overall, the project is good for people, good for the environment, and makes good economic sense, too.”
WasteAid will be able to launch the centre thanks to a grant from UK Aid Direct, as part of DfID’s Small Charities Challenge Fund — which celebrates and supports small UK-registered charities and nonprofit organisations.
Alongside the waste management, KMEG will also be running an awareness-raising campaign to encourage people in the settlement to think about how they’re disposing of their waste.
A lot of the effort in the campaign will be to explain the new “rubbish rules” and how these benefit the local population, according to WasteAid.
WasteAid Project Manager Jill Matthews said: “We are really excited to be bringing UK aid support to the shores of Lake Naivasha. A simple waste management service can have a significant positive impact on people’s lives.
“We hope to develop a low-cost model for other settlements in Kenya and elsewhere to follow,” added Matthews. “We will be posting regular updates demonstrating how we are turning waste into wealth, using simple and affordable techniques.”
With the world’s ongoing fight against plastic pollution, waste management is key area for the UK government’s international development funding.
At an event in parliament with veteran broadcaster David Attenborough on March 11, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt announced that Britain will double UK aid support for plastic recycling in developing nations.
“Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our oceans,” said Mordaunt at the event. “The UN estimates that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, unless we act to reduce our use and improve how waste in managed, particularly in poorer countries.”
“That’s why I am doubling UK aid’s support to projects in developing countries to increase plastic recycling,” she added. “This will create jobs and reduce the harmful impact of plastic waste in our oceans. Cleaning up our environment is a win for us all.”
Last year, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged £66.4 million to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans in the first place.