Plastic waste has sparked conversations around the world. While plastic is considered valuable, many people have resorted to single-use plastics, which have a severe negative impact on the environment and human health when improperly disposed of. With modernization, plastics are in demand every day. Plastic waste is now considered an international crisis. Many countries are trying to find innovative ways, from national dialogues to research, in a bid to find sustainable solutions to curb this menace. According to UNEP, around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.
Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi is not spared. An estimated 2,400 tons of solid waste is generated every day, 20% of which is in plastic form. As the city continues to advance in development, and with a rising population, plastic waste is among the issues cropping up. If nothing is done, we will be left dealing with serious repercussions.
The Kenyan government can be lauded for the efforts put in place to correct the mistakes of those who disregard common sense and loiter irresponsibly. The ban on single-use plastic carrier bags, as well as the ban on specific single-use plastic items in protected areas, are some of the measures taken in recent years. The establishment of the Kenya Plastics Action Plan also aims to ensure the environmentally sustainable use and recycling of plastics by applying the principles of a circular economy in Kenya. But there is still more that needs to be done. There are still large volumes of plastics being produced and dumped into our environment. The plastic waste menace is not only a Kenyan issue but an international crisis, and many other initiatives are rising to help curb this crisis.
One of them is the Kenya Plastics Pact, a collaborative initiative led by Sustainable Inclusive Business (SIB-K) under the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). It aims to revolutionize the current linear to a circular plastics system. Kenya becomes the second country after South Africa, to have this initiative implemented under the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Plastics Network. It brings together stakeholders in the whole plastics value chain bound by specific targets to ensure a significant change has been achieved by 2030. The Pact’s vision is to create a circular economy for plastic packaging in which it never becomes waste. This is through three set out principles.
- Eliminate; eliminating plastics we don’t need,
- Innovate; innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable or recyclable
- Circulate; circulating the plastics we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.
But with such initiatives coming up, what are we doing as individuals to control plastic pollution? Are we the ignorant ones that leave it to others to sort the mess? Are we adapting to habits of change? Are we aware of the 3 Rs of responsible waste management?
Creating less waste means our environment can be kept clean. How can this be achieved? Instead of regularly buying water packed in plastic, get a water bottle and have it refilled. Have a lunch box you can carry food with to the office. When shopping, be very careful and be on the lookout for items packaged in non-reusable or non-recyclable plastic. Find options for plastics that are sustainable. We all came to Nairobi with an ambition to thrive in our different areas of life, and this should encourage us to protect the city’s ecosystem. The city we call home.
Reusing is the practice of taking old items that you might not need and finding a new use for them. Repurposing is the best way to reuse your plastic products. Instead of throwing away that margarine plastic packaging, repurpose it and store your spices or snacks. You do not need to buy planters for your favourite flowers when you can plant them in plastic bottles. Be creative and innovative with both large and small ideas; hanging gardens can be made from used plastics and they can also be used as irrigators. When taking a hike, camping, or going for a picnic with loved ones, ensure to carry reusable cutlery. Our love for our environment reflects our love for humanity.
Recycling is the process of converting old used materials into new productions to avoid depletion of virgin resources. Recycling can be a complex process that involves sorting and separation but it has major benefits. With the rising population, more natural raw resources are in demand, and recycling contributes to a more sustainable economy with positive impacts on the people, planet and profits. The increasing number of recycling companies coming up in Nairobi is a clear indication of the willingness of different players to contribute to the swift shift to a circular economy for plastics. We all have a role to play in making this journey a success, no matter how small.
Plastic waste is extremely dangerous to our environment as much as it is to our well-being and the health of our businesses and country. By joining the Kenya Plastics Pact, we become part of the solution. Collectively, we can make a difference.
By Nancy Melly
Communication Intern- Sustainable Inclusive Business