Why we must urgently stop burning our waste
SEE ALSO :Polluted air shortens lives by 20 monthsThey are produced as pesticides and industrial chemicals. Dioxins and furans are highly toxic at low levels and will be produced in medium temperature combustion such as industrial processes, incinerators, power plants using waste and the open burning of waste. Open burning of waste is the single most important source of dioxins in Kenya. Where does Kenya stand globally? The global community has been mobilised to fight emissions and release of Unintentionally Produced Organic Pollutants (UPOPS) under the Stockholm Convention (SC) on persistent organic pollutants, the Basel Convention (BC) on the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal and the Minamata Convention on Mercury (MCM). Kenya is a party to the SC and BC and a signatory to MCM. Developed nations have since stopped activities that emit dioxins into the air from industries, incinerators, power stations and open burning of waste. Why should open burning of waste be stopped urgently? Although the Stockholm Convention is concerned with persistent organic pollutants as products of incomplete combustion, open burning generates toxic by-products of combustion well beyond chemical substances. In Kenya, unintentionally produced organic pollutants are released in large quantities. Available statistics indicate that Kenya produces 2,800g toxic equivalents of UPOPS annually. The very low toxicity makes the emissions environmentally significant. The bulk of the emissions come from uncontrolled burning of waste. This is mainly from municipal, industrial, and healthcare waste, and agricultural practices. Urban waste With a population of 45 million, Kenya generates 22 million tonnes of urban waste or about 10,000 tonnes every day. Less than 50 percent is collected and disposed of at dumpsites. Nairobi generates 4,000 tonnes, with half of that going to Dandora dumpsite. The rest either rots, is eaten by animals or burnt in backyards. Of what goes to Dandora, less than 20 percent is recycled, 50 per cent rots and about 900 tonnes will be burnt at some point. This makes open burning the largest source of general air pollution. Municipal waste contains 15 percent plastics. For Nairobi, 600 tonnes is plastic waste or some, say, 100 seven-tonne lorries of waste in open burning. Air pollution contributes toxic residue to water and contaminates land. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that dioxins and furans are priority chemicals because they accumulate in animal fat. Many Kenyans do not seem to realise that open burning of waste is illegal. Where it must be burnt, there are regulations and guidelines. This is especially so because Kenya is a party to the Stockholm Convention, which calls on parties to minimize open burning. Kenya has received a grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for sound chemicals management and reduction of unintentionally produced persistent organic pollutants from the open burning of waste and thermal disposal of healthcare waste. Five-year plan The five-year (2016-2021) project is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, in partnership with national and county government agencies, civil society, private sector and intergovernmental organizations. Now in its second year, remarkable progress has been made in the project’s implementation. The milestones include completed baseline studies, wide stakeholder consultations and review of policies. The next project year will involve procurement of healthcare and municipal waste disposal facilities with county governments of Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu, and other stakeholders Ms Mayiani is the Unintentionally Produced Organic Pollutants (UPOPS) Project Manager, at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry
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