Trader reaps tidy sum from plastics waste recycling

Plastic shopping bags are an eyesore. Duncan Kariuki, who started an enterprise out of waste could agree, now that he is a successful entrepreneur keen on the environment, recycling and manufacturing.

Dirt, as one Omo advert said, is good.

Duncan Kariuki, who started an enterprise out of waste could agree, now that he is a successful entrepreneur keen on the environment, recycling and manufacturing.

It has been 10 years since Mr Kariuki started collecting and selling plastic paper bags, broken basins, bottles, chairs and utensils that litter urban and peri-urban areas.

He started the venture in 2001 in Nairobi, but later realised that his Nyeri home town was equally littered; he went there.

“I learnt that there were no people collecting recyclable plastics in Nyeri and decided to fill the gap,” he told Business Daily.

The opportunity offered huge potential in Nyeri since he had no competitors.

“I started collecting plastic materials from all over the region. Many people also started delivering them to me.”

He started the business with Sh10,000 but has expanded to cover Nyeri, Othaya, Mukurue-ini, Karatina, Mweiga and Naro Moru in Kieni and part of Nanyuki.

Mr Kariuki established a base at Witemere slums in Nyeri town but built contact with five companies in Nairobi which recycle plastics and they provided a ready market for the tonnes of plastic waste that he collects every month.

“This business has supported us for those 10 years. I have also employed four people to help me,” he said. The employees weigh the deliveries, take records, and sort the plastics in colour and type as well as grind the garbage.

In 2006, Mr Kariuki discovered he was using a lot of money to transport the materials in bulk to Nairobi. He, therefore, bought a grinding machine from a Sh280,000 bank loan.

“I wanted to reduce the cost of transportation which was and is still my greatest challenge.

It was also one way of adding value to the plastics.”

Mr Kariuki explains that sorting the plastics is influenced by the products the five companies he supplies make.  

The entrepreneur is thriving on the fact that many plastics are manufactured every day and many tonnes are also discarded, helping him to stay in business.

He buys a kilogramme of plastics regardless of type and colour at Sh15. After grinding, he sells a kilo at between Sh30 and Sh40, factoring in the cost of transportation and other overheads. He sells materials which have not been ground at between Sh20 and Sh30 a kilo.

The bottles are transported in bulk.

“They discourage us from grinding the bottles; currently, there are no companies which process such material and after they grind, they transport it to China where it is recycled.”

The cost of transporting these bottles to Nairobi is Sh17 to Sh20 per kilogramme compared to Sh3 to Sh4 if they could be crushed, he said, justifying his decision to buy the grinder.
Every month, he delivers three tonnes of such bottles, making his total deliveries, including the used plastics to seven tonnes.

He earns at least Sh25, 000 in net income.

He has agents in Murang’a and Embu but sees a wider vista of owning a manufacturing firm.

That is his dream.

“Currently, competition is too high but I look forward to establishing my own firm since there are no plastic manufacturing companies in the region,” he said.

Many jobs

He works hand in hand with tea factories in Nyeri to source plastics from farmers who are being educated on proper disposal.
However, many people still do not understand the importance of not burning plastics.

A number of people neither know nor appreciate the value and importance of recycling in the environmental campaign.

Mr Kariuki advises young people to stop being choosy when looking for a job in an economy like Kenya’s where unemployment is at high levels.

“The youth should accept to work. There are many jobs around if only they could open their eyes and stop being lazy,” he said.

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