Street urchins regularly rummaging through the Gioto Dumpsite and along the Ndarugu River in Nakuru for waste bottles have found competition from two Form Four leavers.
The duo — Davis Oduor, 29 and Mary Wanja, 21 — has turned the dumpsite into a source of income. While it is an eyesore to many, the mountain of garbage supplies them with the raw materials they need to try their hands in entrepreneurship by creating pieces of art for home decoration.
The two say they decided to pursue their passion in decorative arts when job opportunities failed to come by.
After collecting the bottles from the dumpsite and along the rivers, the duo washes them, crafts them into impressive shapes, paints them then uses adhesives to stick beads onto them. The results are flower vases, lampshades and candle stands that appeal to those with an eye for beautiful interior decorations.
The two met in church and after sharing the challenges that halted their dreams of pursuing their desired courses, they decided to put their brains together and try entrepreneurship. Mr Oduor, who was born and brought up in Barnabas, Nakuru County, says people who watched him collect plastic bottles along Njoro river and Gioto dumpsite thought his mind was no longer sound.
“I faced stigmatisation and was labeled a street boy as nobody understood why I woke up at 5am each morning to go from one hotel dustbin to another and along the river collecting the bottles,” says Mr Oduor.
Even friends and family members started avoiding him, and the few that came close to him advised him to go for psychiatric assessment.
He started the trade with a Sh6,000 capital he had saved from the salary he earned while working as a waiter at a hotel.
“With my savings, I bought beads, glue, paint and chains. From the work I create now, I earn between Sh250 to Sh1,000 apiece depending on the sizes,” he says.
Mr Oduor who started his business in April 2018, recently sold over 50 pieces of his vases to a wedding planner. This fetched him handsome income and encouraged him to work harder.
Ms Wanja who crafts beautiful lampshades using plastic bottles which she collects from Wangige market in Kiambu, sells hers from Sh1,000 to Sh2,000 as per the size and designs.
“I don’t mind what people say about me when they see me going poring through trash to collect the bottles. I am self-driven and my family has been supportive of my creativity,” she says
The entrepreneurs note that most youths have good ideas but lack resources to actualise them.
The two, who mainly use social media platforms and referrals to market their pieces, plan to train the youth to use their talents and be innovative.
“We hope to open a décor shop and train more youths to be innovative as we are passionate about conserving the environment from the plastic menace. There are also a number of things that the government can do, from running public awareness campaigns, to offering incentives for recycling,” says Mr Oduor.
A United Nations report released recently states that over one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute around the world.
These bottles end up in lakes, rivers and oceans, chocking the ecosystem and in turn leading to extinction of some aquatic species.
On land, they hold water and create breeding places for mosquitoes and other organisms that affect human health.
While plastic bottles may have many valuable uses, humans have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic that has severe environmental consequences.
Environmental activist, James Wakibia who has been vocal in campaigns on conservation, maintains that plastic bottles are destroying the environment, noting that it is encouraging when innovative individuals re-use and recycle them for items such as flower vases.
“Petco Kenya should work closely and empower these people since they are doing the environment and this country a big favour. If left in the environment, these plastics clog our rivers, sewer lines and drainage beside holding water, creating habitat for mosquitos,” says Mr Wakibia.
To address the plastic menace holistically, Mr Wakibia maintains that the government should enact laws that will regulate plastic industry so that they are compelled by law to commit to protect the environment.