The menace of mounting garbage, particularly in Nairobi, has brought a rapper and a software developer into an improbable partnership.
The partnership between the two, who naturally ought to have little in common given the nature of their careers, underlines the extent to which garbage has become the bane of the human existence, affecting all sectors of the economy.
Rising garbage is driven by global economic growth and attendant increased consumerism; the more modern the lifestyles, the higher the volume of waste each of us individually generate. According to a 2008 National Geographic documentary series Human Footprint, humans “produce 246 million tonnes of waste every year”.
With such massive generation of garbage, the world faces a daunting challenge and it is not easy to determine how the choking earth will respond to all the trash in future.
Luckily, that bleak prospects may not arrive thanks to innovators who are coming up with creative ways of dealing with the menace.
Kenyans have not been left find in the hunt for solutions. Artiste Julius Owino, popularly known as Juliani in the music world, has partnered with software developer Griffin Kisia to come up with an innovative way to help us out of the mounting garbage. The duo have created Taka Bank, which is literary an online “trash bank”. As the name suggests, the idea was inspired by the garbage nuisance and the need to give back to society through Juliani’s Dandora Hip Hop City Customer Bora programme that seeks to create a scalable circular economy beneficial to both the manufacturer and consumer.
Mr Kisia, a former rugby player and Bachelor of Business Information Technology (BBIT) graduate from JKUAT, brought on board his IT expertise, merging it with the business skills learnt in the classroom. Juliani on his part brought to bear his life lessons and experiences obtained from working with corporates, over a nesting four-year period where Customer Bora was seeking to increase online presence to get more young people involved.
So popular has the initiative become that yesterday, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) joined in, to launch the project aimed at facilitating sustainable collection of waste. The initiative involves trial “Taka Bank” kiosks, which are collection stations for waste, with the first being in Dandora. Other areas in Nairobi include Dagoretti, Mowlem, Huruma, Korogocho. Collection points have also been set up in Voi and Nakuru.
Through Taka Mobile, that is easily accessible on the Customer Bora portal, anyone is able to request for trash collection. You can also ask on your mobile phone to deposit the waste you have collected in the trash bank.
Dandora Hip-Hop City sends a vetted youth group to collect, sort and transport the trash at a fee. The client then earns five points for every deposit done, with the points redeemable for branded plastic, bottles, cans and tins.
For example, if you have 250 points, you can get a packet of unga. Also through the online Taka wallet, you can redeem phones, ornamets made from trash such as hangers or lamps made by youth groups, electronics and clothes. And more redeemable services and products will be added.
This, Juliani says, aids in cleaning the environment while spurring circular economy of responsible consumers and manufacturers.
“We created the platform for them (consumers and manufacturers) to be responsible,” Juliani says. “The focus is to make sure the trash ends in the hands of the recyclers.”
Taka Bank is currently working with T3 and Mr Green as the main plastic and glass recyclers.
One Taka Bank can collect 100 kilos of trash a week.
The duo also have Taka Express linked to the portal which helps in collecting garbage from areas with no Taka banks, at a fee, but the accruing points go to the person who made the request.
Companies can also sign up for Green Pass, a garbage collection service that allows them to get green badges. They can donate the points to youth groups or use as they see fit. The more the points, the more the goods and services they will be able to enjoy.
Taka mobile arm also handles garbage collected during events and gets sorted the same way.
“The problem is not trash, the problem is no opportunity to be circular. We are exploring new way to add to the already existing system. KAM Partnership got us recyclers. Our main agenda is to scale, if we scale enough, we recycle more.” Juliani muses.