LEGISLATIVE AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORKS GOVERNING SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT IN KENYA: CASE OF PLASTIC BAGS IN NAIROBI

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Introduction

Nairobi’s name comes from the Maasai phrase “enkare Nairobi” which means “a

place of cold waters.”[1] The city of Nairobi owes its early development and growth to the Kenya Uganda Railway.[2] The railway reached Nairobi in 1899 and the city became the railway’s headquarters. According to Mitula and Rakodi in the Kenya Atlas,the city grew into British East Africa’s commercial and business hub and by 1907 became the capital ofKenya .Nairobi has experienced rapid population growth since its development.[3]

     

Nairobi’s rapid population growth can also be attributed to rural-urban migration. Some of the causes for rural urban migration include inadequate or lack of social amenities in the rural areas such as schools. Most people are forced to migrate to the city to attend universities. Better job opportunities and search of market for goods and services are also causes of rural urban migration. Being a commercial hub, the city of Nairobi also attracts people from neighbouring towns who come to work or trade in goods and services.

A significant number of communities from satellite towns, such as Thika, Naivasha, Ngong and Machakos, come into Nairobi daily to work or bring goods and supplies.[4] In addition, the City of Nairobi is characterized by lack of planning and informal settlements: To emphasize this point, the City Council of Nairobi records the following regarding informal settlements;

      Informal settlements in Nairobi have grown gradually since 1992,

      When Nairobi was officially founded. When European settlers

      Appropriated large tracks of land in Kiambu, Limuru Mbagathi,

     Ruiru and other areas, many people were displaced. The

     Colonialists made little provisions for accommodation for the

     Africans and this led to the emergence of squatter settlements.

    With independence, the African policy led to even more

     People coming to the city. Consequently , temporary dwellings

     Began to spring up. The Kenyatta administration allowed

     Migrants who could not find accommodation in the formal low-

     Cost estates like Kariokor, Bahati and others to put up shacks

      Within the city, as long as these were not too close to the CBD.[5]

The increase in population, rapid urbanization and rapid development result in an increase in solid waste generation. Of importance to this study is the plastic bag waste. This is because plastic bag waste is the most rampant and also poses challenges in managing it. Highways, the Central Business District and the residential areas are all characterized by plastic bag waste despite the efforts of the City Council of Nairobi (hereinafter called CCN) and other private organizations to bring the management of plastic bag waste under control.

Plastic bags have their advantages, hence their increased use. Apart from being inexpensive to purchase, they are durable, hygienic and can be used for various applications due to their varying degrees of strength. They are also resistant to chemicals. This is because all goods packaged in plastic bags are not destroyed. Plastic bags are freely available in the market outlets and sold for a low price in outdoor markets. With these characteristics, plastic bags have proven to be more advantageous than other means of packaging. In addition, plastic bags create employment opportunities both for the manufacturing industries that manufacture them, the organizations involved in the recycling and for private companies licensed to collect them for disposal. The high demand of plastic bags has led to the huge growth of plastic bag industry. On the growth of plastic bag industry, Eunice Muchane and Grace Muchane record the following:

                                                

         There are more than 70 plastic industries in Kenaya with

         Capacities ranging from 800-1000 tons per year. Most of these

        Industries are located in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya,

        Although some are located in other smaller cities, such as

       Mombasa, Nakuru, Thika and Eldoret. An estimated 4,000 tons

      Of the thin plastic bags, termed in the report as “flexible”, are

      Produced each month in Kenya mainly for use as shopping bags,

      But also for covering products such as bread. About half of them

       Are less than 15 microns thick and some are as little as seven

Microns thick, making them unsatisfactory for use more than once

                                                                                    .

  

Plastic bags have their advantages, hence their increased use. Apart from being inexpensive to purchase, they are durable, hygienic and can be used for various applications due to their varying degrees of strength. They are also resistant to chemicals. This is because all goods packaged in plastic bags are not destroyed. Plastic bags are freely available in the market outlets and sold for a low price in outdoor markets. With these characteristics, plastic bags have proven to be more advantageous than other means of packaging. In addition, plastic bags create employment opportunities both for the manufacturing industries that manufacture them, the organizations involved in the recycling and for private companies licensed to collect them for disposal. The high demand of plastic bags has led to the huge growth of plastic bag industry. On the growth of plastic bag industry, Eunice Muchane and Grace Muchane record the following:

                                                

         There are more than 70 plastic industries in Kenaya with

         Capacities ranging from 800-1000 tons per year. Most of these

        Industries are located in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya,

        Although some are located in other smaller cities, such as

       Mombasa, Nakuru, Thika and Eldoret. An estimated 4,000 tons

      Of the thin plastic bags, termed in the report as “flexible”, are

      Produced each month in Kenya mainly for use as shopping bags,

      But also for covering products such as bread. About half of them

       Are less than 15 microns thick and some are as little as seven

      Microns thick, making them unsatisfactory for use more than once.[6]

 

Plastic bags are used on a daily basis by the residents of Nairobi. The uses range from carrier bags to packaging. Sweets, bread and milk are some of the commodities packaged in plastic bags and used on a daily basis. Chain stores as well as groceries and butcheries also pack the commodities in plastic bags. Supermarkets, kiosks and outdoor markets are estimated to release 11 million plastic shopping bags per year of which 8 million are from supermarkets.[7] The generation of plastic bag waste is therefore high every day. The City of Nairobi is inhabited by over 3 million inhabitants who generate a combined total of over 2,400 tons per day of solid wastes, out of which 20% comprise of plastics.[8]

However, lack of management on the disposal of the plastic bag waste has led to detrimental effects on the environment. It is the very prevalence of these bags that result in several critical environmental and social impacts associated with their use and immediate disposal.[9] Illegal dumping and indiscriminate littering are some of the methods used to dispose of these bags.

Some of the negative impacts of plastic bags to the environment include chocking of animals resulting from the consumption of these bags. However, the impact of plastic bags does not end with the death of one animal; when a bird or mammal dies in such a manner and subsequently decomposes, the plastic bag will again be released into the environment to be ingested by another animal.[10]

In addition, incinerations of these bags produce toxic gases that are detrimental to human health. Whenever they are littered on the ground, they choke the soil off nutrients making it unsuitable for farming. A part from choking soils, plastic bags is also an eyesore. The sight of all sizes and colours of plastic bags strewn all over is not pleasing to the eye. Plastic bags also form breeding grounds for bacteria and mosquitoes causing malaria. They clog drainages and sewers resulting to flooding whenever it rains. Finally, when they do ultimately break down, they do not biodegrade; instead they photo degrade meaning that they break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These small pieces can be consumed by wildlife and their long term effects on soil and water quality are not yet clear.[11]

 

There are several Acts enacted to deal with solid waste management which includes plastic bag waste. The legislative framework governing solid waste management in Kenya is The Environmental Management and co-ordination Act (EMCA), [12] the Environmental Management (waste management) Regulations, 2006, [13] the Public Health Act[14] and the City Council of Nairobi (Solid Waste Management) By-laws, 2007. The various methods of dealing with plastic bag waste as provided for by these Acts include recycling, re-use, and reduce, incineration, dumping and landfills.

 

Section 87 of EMCA prohibits discharge or dispose of any wastes in a manner that would cause pollution to the environment or ill health to any person. Section 87(4) obligates every person whose activities generate waste to employ measures essential to minimize wastes through treatment, reclamation and recycling. Offences for contravention of this section as laid down by section 87(5) are imprisonment of a term not more than two years or a fine of not more than one million or to both. With regard to disposal sites and landfills, a person operating a dump site before the operation of the Act is required by section 89 to apply for a license within six months to the commencement of this Act. Where the generation, handling, transportation, storage or disposal presents an imminent and substantial danger to the public health, the environment and natural resources, section 90(1) gives the Authority the powers to apply to a competent court for orders compelling any person to immediately stop such generation, handling, transportation, storage or disposal of any waste.

The City Council of Nairobi enacted the City Council of Nairobi (Solid Waste Management) By-Laws, 2007 that are necessary or desirable for maintenance of the health, safety and well-being of inhabitants of its area. An occupier of any residential, dwelling or trade premises within the area of jurisdiction of the City Council is required by By-Law 4(7) to deal with the waste arising from the premises in accordance with the directions issued by the Council either specifically or under the scheme of arrangement established by the Council under these by-laws for the management of domestic and trade waste arising in the area where the particular occupier or owner resides or carriers on business or other activities.

 

The City Council is also required by By-Law 8(1) to arrange for collection, treatment and disposal of all domestic waste and street and other litter generated or otherwise arising within its area of jurisdiction and take all necessary and reasonably practicable measures to maintain all places falling within its area of jurisdiction in a clean and sanitary condition at all times. For waste that can be recycled, an occupier of domestic and trade premises is required by By-Law 8(9) to separate waste which can be recycled and place it in a different container provided by the Council or the waste operator. Dumping is prohibited under By-Law 9(1). With regard to disposal sites, By-Law 9 requires persons operating such areas are required to keep record of all waste loads disposed of at the facility as well as ensure that the permit holder sticks to the laws provided in the By-Laws in operating the plant.

 

Regulation 4(1) of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination (Waste Management) Regulations, 2006 prohibits any person from disposing of any waste on public highway, street, road, recreational area or in any public place except in designated waste receptacle. Regulation 5 (1) of the same regulations further requires a waste generator to ,minimize the waste generated by adopting cleaner production methods which include monitoring the production cycle from the beginning to the end by enabling the recovery and reuse of the product where possible and reclamation and recycling. A waste generator is also required to segregate waste by separating hazardous waste and shall dispose of such wastes in such facility as shall be provided by the relevant facility under regulation 6. With regard to disposal sites and landfills, Regulation 10(1) stipulates that any person granted a license under the Act to operate a  waste disposal site or plant, shall comply with all conditions imposed by the Authority to ensure that such disposal site or plant operates in the environmentally sound manner.

This license, in accordance with Regulation 10(4), is valid for a period of one year from the date of issue and may be renewed for a further period of one year from the date of issue and may be renewed for a further period of one year on such terms and conditions as the Authority may deem necessary or impose for purposes of ensuring public health and sound environmental management.

Institutional frameworks governing solid waste management includes the CCN, the Kenya National Cleaner Production Centre, a  Trust in the Ministry of industrialization established in the year 2000 under the United Nations Development Programme-the Government of Kenya Programme Support Programme (PSD) on the Environment and National Resources Management within the UNDP-Kenya Country Co-operation Framework (CCF) 1999-2003, [15] The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and analysis (KIPPRA), an autonomous public institute formed under the provisions of the country’s State Corporations Act whose primary mission is to conduct research and analysis leading to policy advice to government and the private sector[16] and the National Environment Management Authority (hereinafter called NEMA) established under Section 7 of EMCA[17] whose object and purpose is to exercise general supervision and co-ordination over all matters relating to the environment and to be the principal instrument of Government in the implementation of all policies relating to the environment.[18]

Despite the presence of legislative and institutional frameworks governing solid waste management, there is rampant littering and illegal dumping of plastic bag waste.

The surge of population, coupled by lack of planning, and informal settlements, has led to lack of sufficient mechanisms in dealing with the unprecedented rate of urbanization in the City of Nairobi. Dealing with the consequences of urbanization is then proving to be a challenge.

The plastic bag menace can be attributed to inability by the City Council of Nairobi to effectively carry out its duties of refuse collection and disposal. Lack of adequate staff, ineffective by-laws and inadequate garbage trucks are some of the reasons that have to the poor performance of the CCN. Community-based organizations (CBOs) have now come up to complement the duties of the CCN. However, despite the intervention of the CBOs, such services are insufficient in the low-income areas. UNEP records the following regarding the participation of CBOs in controlling plastic bag waste:

         The 1998 JICA study found 26 per cent of households in high-income areas, 16         

         Per cent of those in middle-income areas, 75 per cent of those in low-income 

         Areas and 74 per cent of the surrounding area do not receive any service.[19]

 

The CNN is also not efficient in monitoring the private sector that deals in collection of waste.

The research by the Kenya National Cleaner Protection records that private companies involved in the collection of waste are unregulated.[20] They then charge varying tariffs for their services. This is so because the CCN does not have a contractual relationship with them but only monitors them (private sector) through licensing procedure that is not monitored.

 There are private organizations involved in waste collection and specifically plastic bag waste and recycling of the same. Some of these organizations include Green Africa Limited and Ramji Harribhai Devani Limited. Despite of the efforts by private organizations, rampant littering is still experienced. In addition, informal settlements which are resident to the largest number of the City’s population receive little or no amenity services. The level of plastic consumption is high in these areas.

 The uses of these bags also range from carrier bags to packaging bags. In addition, inhabitants of informal settlements also use plastic bags as flying toilets. Waste collection is lowest in these areas making the sustainable management of plastic bag waste almost impossible.

The rampant plastic bag waste can also be attributed to little or no awareness programmes that discourage dumping and indiscriminate littering. In addition, the laws governing plastic bag waste management are inadequately enforced and implemented hence the level of compliance is low.

 

 

[1] United Nations Environment Programme, “ Kenya Atlas of our Changing Environment” (2009), 145

http://www.earthprint.com  (last accessed on 1st  February, 2013).

[2] City Council of Nairobi , “City of Nairobi Environment Outlook” (2007), 3.

http://www.unep.org/geo/pdfs/NCEO Report FF New Text.pdf  (last accessed on 11th February, 2013 at 6.08pm)

[3] Winnie Mitula and Carol Rakodi, “ Understanding Slums: Case studies for the Global Report on Human Settlements: The case of Nairobi, Kenya,” in United Nations Environment Programme, “ Kenya Atlas of our changing Environment” (2009), 145.

http://www.earthprint.com (last accessed on 1st February, 2013.)

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

 

 

 

[4] Supra , note 1. At p.148

[5] Supra, note 2, at p.2

[6] Eunice Muchane and Grace Muchane, Solid Waste Management in Nairobi and the town of Limuru, in Kenya , (Unpublished Environmental Engineering Thesis, Tampere Polytechnic University for Applied Sciences, Finland 2006), 14.

 

 

[7] Kenya National Cleaner Production Centre. ‘’A Comprehensive Waste Management Strategy for The City of Nairobi” (2006) http://www.unep.or.jp/letc/GPWM/table3 projects.html (last accessed on 20th November, 2012 at 2.24pm)

[8] Ibid ,p.9

[9] Sara Ellis, Sarah Kanter, Ada Saab and Mary Watson, Plastic Grocery Bags: The Ecological Footprint (University of Victoria Press, Canada , 2005.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jennifer Clapp & Linda Swanston, ‘’Doing away with plastic shopping bags: International patterns of norm emergence and policy implementation, Environmental Politics’’ (2009)

[12] Act no. 8 of 1999.

[13] Legal Notice No. 121 of 2006.

[14] Chapter 242, Laws of Kenya (Revised Edition, 2012)

[15] http//www.cpkenya.org/component/content/article/70-other-categories/274-the-national-resource-efficient-a-cleaner-production-award-for-the-lake-victoria-basin-industries (last accessed on 22nd February, 2013 at 7.45pm)

[16] Girum Bahir, Sustainable Management of Plastic Bag Waste: The Case of Nairobi, Kenya (IIIEE, Sweden, 2005), p. 12

[17] Supra , note 12.

[18] Supra , note 12, at section 9(1)

[19] United Nations Environment Programme, “Selection, Design and Implementation of Economic Instruments in the Waste Management Sector in Kenya : The case of Plastic Bags” (2005) p.18.http://www.unep.ch/etb/publications/economist/kenya.pdf (last accessed on 20th November, 2012 at 3.23pm.

 

[20] Kenya National Cleaner Protection Centre, “  A Comprehensive Waste Management Strategy for the City of Nairobi” (2006)http://www.unep.or.jp/letc/GPWM/table3 projects.html (last accessed on 20th November, 2012 at 2.24pm)

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