OPINION: Inaugural Mombasa plastics sector dialogue charts path to plastic smart city


A scavenger carries recyclable plastic materials packed in a sack at the Dandora dumping site ...
Recyclable plastic materials packed in a sack at the Dandora dumping site on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya August 25, 2017. REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA

By Dr. Godffrey Nato

The transitioning of the country into a circular economy received a big boost following the successful stakeholder sensitisation meetings on the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 2021 Regulations by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry earlier in June.

EPR regulations aim to make producers responsible for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product chain, from design to the post-consumer phase to alleviate the burden on counties and taxpayers for managing end-of life products, reduce the amount of waste destined for final disposal and increase rates of recycling.

Plastics are some of the materials subject to the EPR regulations. The others are: packaging materials, composites based on paper, agricultural film, batteries, oils, metals, glass, electrical and electronic equipment, furniture, graphic paper, mercury auto switches and thermostats, paints, pharmaceuticals, textiles and tyres.

Mombasa County generates about 900 tonnes of solid waste daily out of which plastic waste comprises 9 percent (approximately 81 tonnes), according to a 2019 assessment by the UN Habitat and the  County Government of Mombasa. Of the 81 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily, only half is processed for recycling.

The rest leaks into the environment, ending up on land and in the ocean where it poisons marine life and negatively affects human health and livelihoods. Hence the need to urgently address the plastics pollution crisis to secure and enhance the quality and health of Mombasa residents and Kenya’s Coastal people as well as the ecosystems.

The county has not been sitting idle. Rather, it has been on the forefront of championing a circular plastics economy with plans to set up the first of a kind Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to ensure plastics and other recyclable waste fractions are diverted to recycling with only a small percentage ending up in the landfills.

Realizing that the challenges related to plastic waste are set to grow and worsen environmental pollution WWF-Kenya, Hand in Hand Eastern Africa and The Coastal & Marine Resource Development (COMRED) in partnership with the County Government of Mombasa are convening experts and decision-makers to the table to share knowledge, trade best practices and chart the path forward towards making Mombasa County a plastic-smart city. Dubbed the Inaugural Mombasa Plastics Sector Dialogue, the forum, taking place on 17th and 18th June 2021 in Diani Kwale County, marks another milestone for the journey towards a plastic circular economy.

The forum has brought together leaders in the plastics industry, national government, County Government, civil society organisations and academia, who are expected to co-design and develop Plastic Smart action plans through knowledge sharing on best practices and global best practices.

With the aim of making Mombasa a plastic-free city by 2030 as the linchpin of a scalable project along Kenya’s Coastal strip, the stakeholders are expected to form a technical working group on plastics and create a network of plastic waste to value players in the county. The creation of a plastics value chain is essential to ensure that plastic is not treated as a waste but a valuable commodity that can create not only wealth but also hundreds of green jobs for men, women and youth.

Furthermore, the sectoral dialogue also compliments the national government’s industry wide effort to introduce circular economy regulations to provide a framework for the establishment of mandatory EPR Schemes in the country to enhance resource use efficiency, stimulate innovation, spur recycling and reduce the amount of waste destined for final disposal.

Dr Godffrey Nato is the Mombasa County Executive Committee (CEC) member for Environment, Waste Management and Energy.

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