- Leaders are meeting in Nairobi for the Eastern Africa ‘Waste is Wealth’ conference.
- The inaugural Waste is Wealth Series is organised by Taka Ni Mali, East African Business Council, and Alliance for Science.
- The three-day conference is themed: Promoting Effective Waste Management Practices for Environmental Conservation and Climate Change Mitigation.
The concept of a circular economy is fast gaining momentum in East Africa with both the private sector and government’s stuck on the drawing board shaping policies and regulations to help realise the shift.
World business leaders, policy makers, academics and NGOs have argued that a move towards a more circular economy is necessary to help solve global environmental and economic challenges.
Moving towards a more circular economy could increase competitiveness, and stimulate innovation. It will also boost economic growth and create jobs across economies.
Waste is Wealth
It is against this background that leaders are meeting in Nairobi for the Eastern Africa Waste is Wealth conference, which started on Tuesday. The inaugural Africa Waste is Wealth Series (AWWS) is organized by Taka Ni Mali, the East African Business Council, and the Alliance for Science.
The three-day conference is themed promoting effective waste management practices for environmental conservation and climate change mitigation. It is being held on the margins of the UN-Habitat General Assembly meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
Africa currently generates about 80 per cent of solid waste, which is worth an estimated $8 billion annually if recycled, but only around 11 per cent is recycled. The recycling is mainly by the informal sector.
Across Africa, there is a pressing need to address challenges of waste management. This is especially because Africa’s population will increase to 2.4 billion by 2050 and eventually 4.2 billion by 2100.
Kenya is a leader in promoting waste recycling in the region. The country’s waste recyclers are, however, faced with challenges. Quite often, they do not operate in formalised, sustainable waste management systems.
“As such, the volume of waste collected has not been optimised based on market requirements,” said Festus Ng’eno, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry.
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi generates about 2,400 tonnes of solid waste daily, about 20 per cent of which is plastic. Of the waste generated by the city, only 45 percent is recycled, reused or transformed into a form which can yield an economic or ecological benefit. This is a far cry from the 80 per cent target set by the National Environment Management Authority.
Tanzania, home to some of the fastest-growing urban centres in East Africa, produces 12–17 million tonnes of solid waste every year. In Uganda, Kampala city generates over 350,000 tonnes of solid waste. However, only half of it is collected, leaving plastic clogging drains, studies show.
Mr Nge’no said Kenya is committed to creating green jobs and fostering entrepreneurship and the circular economy. He revealed that the extended producer responsibility regulations are in the final stages.
Dr Sheila Ochugboju, Executive Director of Alliance for Science noted that East Africa is taking the lead in waste management. She added that Rwanda and Kenya were the countries to institute a plastic ban, and many countries in the Global North are struggling to catch up.
Due to population growth, rapid urbanisation, and an emerging middle class, there is an urgent need for African countries to manage waste. This will be integral in their response to climate change crisis. It will also help them prepare for the expected growth in waste generation in the coming century.
Municipal solid waste
According to research by the Institute for Ecosystem Research, Germany and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2022), the annual waste generated in sub-Saharan Africa increased by over 100 per cent from 81 million tonnes to 174 million tonnes per year between 2012 and 2016.
Waste is expected to reach 269 million tonnes in 2030. In 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa’s municipal solid waste collection coverage was estimated at 44 percent.
In her remarks, Mary Ngechu, the patron of Taka ni Mali, said: “This conference aims to identify policy and regulatory priorities for sustainable waste management, showcase innovative approaches in commercialising sustainable waste management, demonstrate the use of technology in sustainable waste management, and adopt a plan of action for green financing investments in sustainable waste management.”
Leading in driving sustainable waste management in the EAC region is the East Africa Business Council. The CEO John Bosco Kalisa said climate change and the circular economy remain top priorities.
The EABC has established a board subcommittee on climate change in partnership with GIZ-GFA and organised a community engagement and dialogue on zero waste in East Africa.
“East Africans should embrace the concept of zero waste and transition our business models from linear to a circular economy,” said Mr Kalisa.
The conference, which ends on June 8th will provide stakeholders with a platform to evaluate waste management policies across sectors. It will further help them recognise that urbanisation is a key driver of waste management challenges in Africa.
Sustainable waste management models
The meeting brings together government institutions, private sector actors, development partners, and finance organisations to develop regional commitments to scale best-practice sustainable waste management models.
EAC is endowed with various transboundary resources both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that are the drivers of local livelihoods.
It is, however, worth noting that rapid urbanisation, an emerging middle class, and changing consumption patterns in EAC have resulted in inefficiencies in the storage, collection, transportation, and final disposal of waste in urban centers, EABC notes.
Private waste collectors
Most of the wastes generated in the EAC comprise kitchen wastes, compound wastes, and floor sweepings.
Findings show that despite the involvement of private waste collectors, collection and coverage rates are still below expectations. The main impediments are backlogs of collected waste in public spaces, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
According to the Ministry of Economic Finances and Relations of France to Kenya, the EAC countries have increased waste generation. Currently, organic waste represents 57 percent of garbage, more than the world average of 46 percent. Unfortunately, the proportion of paper and plastic waste are on the rise.
Waste collection and transport services are mainly in urban centers at roughly 55 percent. In the peri-urban and rural areas, waste collection coverage is less than nine percent.
Climate change and industry
The Nairobi meeting has renewed the call for embracing the concept of Zero Waste and transition of business models from linear to circular economy.
Agriculture in the EAC region heavily relies on rainfall, making it vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A one-degree Celsius increase in temperature in developing countries triggers three percentage point decline in agricultural output. Food loss and wastage at various stages of the food value chain worsen the scenario.
The cost of adapting to climate change across Africa could reach $50 billion a year by 2050.
The African Development Bank further acknowledges the impact of climate change on Africa. The lender points out that African economies have already lost between five per cent and 15 per cent to their economies due to climate change.
But there are still significant knowledge gap regarding the baseline energy intensity of specific industries and industry potential for energy efficiency improvements.
“The East African Business Council in partnership with Taka Taka Ni Mali is committed to champion public private dialogue and partnerships to influence energy-efficiency policies and stimulate investment in energy-saving measures as a means to mitigate climate change,” Kalisa said.
The governments, he said, should give tax incentive to industries investing in climate mitigation practices.
The legal regulatory environment
EAC states recognise that development activities may negatively impact the environment leading to the depletion of natural resources. What’s more, development could trigger degradation of the environment. According to Article 111 of the EAC Treaty, a clean and healthy environment is essential for sustainable development.
Further, as per Article 113 of the Treaty Partner States agreed to cooperate in the prevention of illegal trade in and movement of toxic chemicals, substances, and hazardous wastes and have agreed to harmonise their legal and regulatory framework for the management, movement, utilisation, and disposal of toxic substances, the EABC chief said.
In accordance with Article 40 of the Common Market Protocol, partner states shall ensure sound management of the environmental. This strategy relies on the adoption of principles that prevent activities detrimental to the environment.
Pursuant to this, the East African Legislative Assembly passed the 2016 EAC Polythene Control Bill. The law seeks to control the use, sale, manufacture, and importation of polythene in the region.
Plastic waste disposal
Through the Environment and Natural Resource Sector, EAC is prioritising a policy for pollution control and waste management. Partner States are parties to the Eastern African Regional Framework Agreement on Air Pollution (Nairobi Agreement, 2008).
The States also agreed to develop actionable targets to address air pollution in areas of transport, industry and mining. Similar action targets energy, waste, vegetation fires, indoor air pollution, urban planning, and management.
The EAC is currently working on the development and harmonisation of standards and regulations on pollution control and waste management.
The EAC is implementing provisions of the Eastern African framework on air pollution. It is also developing the EAC e-waste management framework and plastic disposal strategy. The region is also focuses on the management of chemical, e-waste, and hazardous and toxic waste, Kalisa noted.