New guidelines: Firms to bear biggest responsibility for pollution from their industries

James Wakibia, a Nakuru-based environmentalist, collects plastic waste from River Ndarugu in Nakuru Town West on May 10, 2023. If they remain uncollected, the plastics will end up in Lake Nakuru. [File, Standard]

The government is developing new guidelines that will see producers of waste bear the biggest responsibility for pollution caused by their activities.

Environment and Climate Change PS Festus Ng’eno said the guidelines will implement the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation that will see manufacturers finance the management of waste from their industries during the entire life cycle of products they introduce to the market.

"They will also be expected to put measures in place to prevent pollution from their products while mitigating their environmental impacts. This will include collection and recycling of waste," said Ng'eno who spoke in Nairobi at the three-day Africa Waste is Wealth that started on Tuesday.

The PS added: "Currently, waste management activities are not formalised, with most stakeholders concentrating on providing incentives to recyclers, and not providing support to those downstream. The ministry is keen to develop guidelines for the implementation of the EPR legislation for a better and healthy environment." 

Ng'eno said the solid waste management ecosystem has remained informal, with fragmented activities conducted by waste collectors, aggregators and recyclers.

PS noted that many counties are yet to get lasting solutions for dumpsites management. "Due to the weakness in infrastructure management, waste has continued to accumulate." 

The conference, organised by East African Business Council (EABC), Takataka Ni Mali and Alliance for Science, has brought together representatives from the seven East Africa Community member states, development partners, policymakers, industry leaders, experts and stakeholders involved in waste management, to discuss effective waste management practices.

As part of these efforts, Kenya enacted Sustainable Waste Management Act 2022. The national government is also working with counties to come up with a model law on waste management that will be replicated in the devolved units.

Environment, Climate Change and Forestry PS Festus Ng'eno during a meeting in Nairobi on May 18, 2023. He said the State is working on guidelines that will see manufacturers finance the management of waste from their industries. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

John Kalisa, the EABC chief executive officer, said the conference is one of the three such meetings meant to come up with the terms of waste management. The other conferences will be held in Uganda and South Sudan.

"After the three conferences, we shall come up with a five-year strategic plan that will have an innovative tool and system to monitor and report the waste each country produces and how it is managed. We already have stakeholders like GIZ supporting this initiative," said Kalisa.

He said most of the water the region generates, about 70 per cent, is bio-waste, which can be reused.

"Once we do that, by 2030, we shall have a circular economy and we will be adding Sh833 billion into the economy and creating a million jobs for our unemployed youths," said Kalisa.

A circular economy entails markets that give incentives to reusing products, rather than scrapping them and then extracting new resources. All forms of waste, such as clothes, scrap metal and obsolete electronics, are returned to the economy or used more efficiently.

Kalosa said Rwanda and Burundi are already ahead in the development of their circular economies with Rwanda going even further ahead to develop a strategy on the same.

Mr Kalisa said all EAC countries have policies and strategies on waste management but fragmented implementation has been the main problem.

"The five-year strategic plan will have a balanced scorecard with measurable indicators, which will define what will be the role of government and EPRs to ensure responsible production and consumption," said Kasila

Takataka Ni Mali founder Mary Ngecha called upon EAC governments to come up with incentives, including taxes benefits, to support investors in waste recycling.

She also challenged counties to hurry up and come up with Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) as required in Sustainable Waste Management Act that will receive segregated waste.

MRFs are facilities that use both machines and people to remove and sort recyclables from the waste stream. They are designed to allow recyclables to be sorted from regular household garbage.

Alliance for Africa executive director Sheila Ochugbou said the 20 worst solid waste dumps are in Africa and there is therefore a need for governments to implement the good policies they have developed on waste management.

"Proper waste management should start by how we plan our cities, including designing our cities for the circular economy through availing waste segregation infrastructure as is the case in Europe," she said.

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