LETTERS: Recycling of plastic waste is achievable

Plastic bags at a dumpsite.
Plastic bags at a dumpsite. FILE PHOTO| NMG 

Environmental sustainability is at the heart of major global concerns, particularly at this critical point when many countries are grappling with the vagaries of climate change.

During this year’s World Environment Day, world leaders and policymakers converged in New Delhi, India to refocus the efforts against the fight to safeguard the environment.Kenya for one has not been an exception to the global discourses around sustainable environmental conservation.

In 2017, the national government, through the Ministry of Environment imposed a ban on the production, importation, distribution and usage of single-use carrier bags, used mostly in retail outlets. Despite the ban on single-use plastics bags, our country continues to face a huge challenge in waste management.

The Framework of Co-operation signed between Kenya Association of Manufacturers, the Ministry of Environment and the National Environment Management Authority to manage polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Bottle waste provides a much-needed platform to spearhead the development and implementation of strategies to unlock an appropriate holistic waste management plan.

It is hoped that this framework will enable the development of policies on proper waste management that will guide the plastics sector on proper environment conservation methods.Millions of Kenyan households favour the use of PET bottles because of their desirable qualities including being light in weight, easily portable, hygienic, recyclable and shatterproof. Unfortunately, despite the clear benefits, uncontrolled disposal from consumers continues to be a challenge.


Thus, it is imperative to develop and implement a sustainable waste management scheme that recognizes the benefits and costs of using PET. As Industry, we continue to advocate for the implementation of structured Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, which will generate value and spur sustainable growth.

An EPR scheme will ensure manufacturers of PET bottles have a significant responsibility for the treatment and disposal of post-consumer products.

It will also provide a level playing field, which will ensure all manufacturers and retailers of PET products, are responsible for their products after their use. Moreover, a huge opportunity remains in the development of a waste management and re-cycling industry that would contribute to the Big 4 Agenda.

This would lead to a Circular Economywhere environmental and economic concerns converge for the good of all. It is with this in mind that PETCO Kenya was established to be the driving force of PET Recycling in Kenya and spearhead the joint effort by PET manufacturers to self-regulate post-consumer PET recycling.

If it is anything to go by, the success of PETCO South Africa, if replicated in Kenya, would be a catalyst to our success in managing plastic bottle waste. PETCO South Africa was incorporated in 2004 and has since then assisted to manage the recycling of PET in their country.

According to Recycling International, in 2016, PETCO South Africa managed to collect over 2 billion plastic bottles resulting in an 800% increase of recycled PET since 2005. The company, which is financed by a voluntary recycling levy imposed on manufacturers of PET, provides the recycling sector with around 62,000 jobs for collectors. We are looking to have a similar impact on our PET waste with the progress of PETCO Kenya.

Therefore, we continue to engage Government and relevant stakeholders to yield effective results. The first National PET Forum and Exhibition, to be held this week, provides a viable avenue for stakeholder engagements.

As seen globally, stakeholder engagement is the most appropriate avenue to develop effective policies. As waste involves many within the value chain; it is essential that guiding policies take into account each role. Denmark is a global leader on issues of waste management.

With intense collaboration between the Confederation of Danish Industries, Danish Plastic Federation, Government Entities and recyclers, their environmental ministry has developed an action plan for plastic management which provides all players, particularly industry, with a long-term perspective of Government's position on the issue, which also presents investment opportunities.

Kenyan industries also desire such collaborations, which will instate a clear policy direction on plastic waste and recycling.

Mucai Kunyiha, vice chairman of Kenya Association of Manufacturers.