Sustainable Waste Management in Kenya’s Urban Centers


It is estimated that Kenya's urban population will reach 50 million by the year 2030, accounting for 62.7 percent of the national population. This rapid urbanization further strains the capacity of Kenyan cities to provide critical waste management services to residents. With the continuous construction of infrastructure and residential buildings, the demand for waste management services is increasing. However, the existing landfills are already overflowing, highlighting the urgent need to adopt more sustainable approaches to waste handling and reduction.

Currently, about 34.8 percent (10 million) of Kenya's total population resides in urban centers, with the largest cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Eldoret accounting for a significant portion of the urban population. The daily waste production in these cities amounts to approximately 2400, 2000, 1000, and 500 tonnes of solid waste, respectively.

Unfortunately, many counties in Kenya lack adequate infrastructure, governance mechanisms, and dedicated funding for effective and sustainable waste management. Additionally, most counties have not designated land for building waste management facilities. As a result, uncontrolled dumping, mixed waste, poor waste recovery, and a high demand for trucks and dumpsite land prevail. This situation leads to the release of greenhouse gases, environmental pollution, and land degradation.

To address these challenges, it is imperative to establish comprehensive policies and regulations. By enforcing stricter rules and encouraging compliance with the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) standards, the issue of poor waste management can be curbed. The law stipulates severe penalties, including fines of up to Sh4 million or four years' imprisonment, for those found polluting the environment.

Moreover, the Ministry of Environment has developed a National Sustainable Waste Management Policy aimed at advancing Kenya towards a more sustainable and circular green economy. The policy focuses on waste collection, source separation, reuse, recycling, and proper disposal in secure and sanitary landfills.

Counties play a vital role in waste management and must ensure regular emptying of waste collection facilities such as skips, bulk containers, and waste cubicles to prevent them from becoming eyesores. Furthermore, counties should ensure that all collected waste is transported using NEMA-licensed vehicles to designated disposal sites. These sites should be secured with fences and gates manned by county government officials to control dumping and prevent waste spread outside the designated areas.

With the implementation of these measures and the commitment of all stakeholders, Kenya can strive towards sustainable waste management practices. The goal is to minimize waste generation, maximize resource recovery through recycling and reuse, and ultimately achieve the Zero Waste principle. By promoting sustainable waste management, Kenya can create cleaner and healthier environments while moving closer to a more sustainable future.

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