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Urban Environmental Management Programme

 

A new trend in rising quality of life, and high rates of resource consumption patterns in Kenya in the past decade have had a unintended and negative impact on the major urban environments in the country as the number of middle class population rises has led to generation of wastes far beyond the handling capacities of urban authorities. Kenyan cities like Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldore, Nakuru and Nairobi are now grappling with the problems of high volumes of waste, the costs involved, the disposal technologies and methodologies, and the impact of wastes particularly on the local and generally on the global environment.

But these problems have also provided a window of opportunity for Kenyan cities to find solutions – involving the community and the private sector; involving innovative technologies and disposal methods; and involving behavior changes and awareness rising. These issues have been amply demonstrated by good practices from many cities around the world.

SANREM thinks that there is a need for a complete rethinking of “waste” – to analyze if waste is indeed waste. A rethinking that calls for:

WASTE to becomeWEALTH
REFUSE 
to become RESOURCE
TRASH 
to becomeCASH *

As SANREM, we think that there is a clear need for the current approach of waste disposal in Kenyan cities that is focused on municipalities and uses high energy/high technology, to move more towards waste processing and waste recycling (that involves public-private partnerships, aiming for eventual waste minimization – driven at the community level, and using low energy/low technology resources. Some of the defining criteria for future waste minimization programmes will include deeper community participation, understanding economic benefits/recovery of waste, focusing on life cycles (rather than end-of-pipe solutions), decentralized administration of waste, minimizing environmental impacts, reconciling investment costs with long-term goals.

 

Solid Waste Management: A Policy and Programme Matrix

 

Most local governments and urban agencies in Kenya’s key urban centres have, time and again, identified solid waste as a major problem that has reached proportions requiring drastic measures. SANREM can observe three key trends with respect to solid waste – increase in sheer volume of waste generated by urban residents; change in the quality or make-up of waste generated; and the disposal method of waste collected, by land-fill, incineration etc.

SANREM therefore believes that it is critical to adopt a broad approach in developing a working framework for solid waste management (SWM) by key urban authorities in the country. This covers the social, economic, technology, political and administrative dimensions. For example the social dimension of SWM involves waste minimization; the economic dimension of SWM involves waste recycling; the technology dimension of SWM involves waste disposal; and the political and administrative dimensions cuts across all the three issues of minimization, recycling and disposal.

But SWM is not an isolated phenomenon that can be easily compartmentalized and solved with innovative technology or engineering. It is particularly an urban issue that is closely related, directly or indirectly, to a number of issues such as urban lifestyles, resource consumption patterns, jobs and income levels, and other socio-economic and cultural issues. All these issues have to be brought together on a common platform in order to ensure a long-term solution to urban waste.

SANREM believes that there is a whole culture of waste management that needs to be put in place in Kenya’s urban authorities – from the micro-level of household and neighborhood to the macro levels of city, state and nation. The general assumption in Kenya’s urban authorities has been that SWM should be done at the city-level, and as a result, solutions tried out have been essentially end-of-pipe (‘End-of-pipe’ refers to finding solutions to a problem at the final stage of its cycle of causes and effects. In the case of urban waste, it means focusing on waste disposal rather than waste recycling or waste minimization). But this approach essentially misses the forest for the trees, in attempting piece-meal and ad hoc solutions to waste problems, instead of taking a long-term holistic approach.

In reality there are a number of critical actions that need to be taken at each of the levels of household, neighborhood, city and nation. Action to be taken can have social, technology, economic, political or administrative dimensions. It is important that the right decision/action be taken/carried out at the right level. Thus, action at the household level are predominantly social, technology and economic in nature. Similarly action to be taken at the state and nation level is predominantly economic, political and administrative in nature. Action at the neighborhood and city levels cuts across all five themes.

The matrix that links the dimensions of decision-making (social, technology, economic, political and administrative) with the levels of decision-making (household, neighborhood, city, and nation) – helps in categorizing the decisions, action and related activities to be undertaken.

The Matrix is shown below:

 

The SWM Matrix

Focal areas for action

The above matrix was ‘field-tested’1during a training session in SWM for city government officials. During the session, city officials from Nepal, China, Philippines and Japan categorized the various SWM activities and actions in their cities within the matrix – allowing them to identify weak areas – the lacks, gaps and mismatches, in their policies, programmes and projects.

Conclusions:

Four key issues emerge from the above discussion –

  1. The SWM Matrix

The advantage of the SWM matrix of scales and themes, is its essential simplicity – allowing for easy understanding and its adoption to various scales, and socio-political and cultural situations. Gaps in existing SWM programmes and initiatives can also be identified. The matrix helps in understanding the interrelationships and interconnectedness of the various issues involved.

  1. End-of-Pipe v/s Life-Cycle

There is a gradual shift from ‘end-of pipe’ solutions that focus on waste disposal, to a source based approach that is aimed at ‘life-cycle’ analysis. This places the responsibility not only on households, but also in manufacturers and retail businesses. Greater awareness at the local and community level has forced businesses and industries to take a more environmentally friendly approach to their activities, including better management of the wastes that they produce, using a more holistic life-cycle assessment (LCA is a systematic set of procedures for compiling and examining the inputs and outputs of materials and energy and the associated environmental impacts directly attributable to the functioning of a product or service system throughout its life cycle.).

  1. Community-Local Government Partnership

As a consequence of the above two points is the realization that collection and processing of waste is not the exclusive domain of the local government – calling for a more comprehensive partnership between the community and local governments where each actor has a role to play towards waste minimization, waste recycling and waste disposal.

  1. SWM and the Larger Urban Environment

As mentioned above, SWM is not an isolated, municipal problem that has to be ‘done’ by the local government. There is a need for a more comprehensive package of measures. Critical to this approach is to integrate SWM activities within the larger process of urban environmental management

Waste Management and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)

Waste is an underlying theme in many multilateral environmental agreements, seeking justification for concerted local action, or broad global consensus. As in the ‘mother-of-all-MEAs’ – Agenda 21 – MEAs seeks to tackle the issue of waste either directly, through the Basel, Rotterdam or Stockholm conventions, or by integrating into larger environmental issues such as Local Agenda 21 or decision-making processes.

This SANREM output is a part of its research programmes on urban environmental management, and seeks to contextualize and target waste action.

An Urban Waste Management Continuum

Most local governments and urban agencies in Kenya have, time and again, identified waste management as a major problem that has reached proportions requiring drastic measures. SANREM can observe three key trends with respect to solid waste – increase in sheer volume of waste generated by urban residents; change in the quality or make-up of waste generated; and the disposal method of waste collected, by land-fill, incineration  especially in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu and Nakuru etc. But these problems have also provided a window of opportunity for these cities to find solutions – involving the community and the private sector; involving innovative technologies and disposal methods; and involving behavior changes and awareness raising. These issues have been amply demonstrated by good practices from many cities around the world. There is a need, therefore, for a complete rethinking of “waste” – to analyze if waste is indeed a ‘waste’.The current emphasis on waste disposal that is focused on municipalities and uses high energy/high technology, needs to move more towards waste processing and waste recycling that involves public-private partnerships, aiming at eventually waste minimization, driven at the community level, and using low energy/low technology resources. Some of the defining criteria for future waste minimization programmes will include deeper community participation, understanding economic benefits/recovery of waste, focusing on product life cycles (rather than end-of-pipe solutions), decentralized administration of waste, minimizing environmental impacts, and reconciling investment costs with long-term goals. The above four key aspects of waste management – disposal, processing, recycling and minimization – is presented here in the form of a dual-axis continuum (see Figure 1), which will help in understanding the actions to be taken, and in building a comprehensive waste management strategy for local governments in Kenyan cities.These four issues, disposal, recycling, processing, and minimization, have been put into a dual axis continuum illustrated in Figure 1.

 

The Waste Management Continuum has two axes. One is the horizontal stakeholder scale, ranging from municipalities and local governments to the community. The other is the vertical technology scale ranging from high tech/high energy disposal systems to low tech low energy systems.

Much of current waste management efforts is focused on local government based high tech/high energy disposal systems (the ‘NOW” position in the continuum). We need to move towards a waste management system that is community based using low tech/low energy, and focused on waste minimization. In achieving this goal, we also have to pass through the ‘gray’ areas of waste processing and waste recycling too.

 

Waste Processing Waste Minimization
Waste Disposal Waste Recycling

Waste Disposal

Historically, efforts in the management of waste have focused primarily on the disposal part of the waste. Whilst there is now a general move towards the recovery of resources from waste, disposal is still the most common form of managing waste. Dumping, land filling of waste and incineration are some of the most common methods of waste disposal.

Waste Processing Waste Minimization
Waste Disposal Waste Recycling

Waste
Recycling

SANREM defines recycling as the breaking down of materials from waste streams into raw materials, which are then reprocessed either into the same material (closed loop) or a new product (open loop), generally including waste separation and material reprocessing. There are various materials that are capable of being recycled, and technology is advancing to allow the recycling of more materials. The benefits of recycling do not lie solely in diversion of waste away from disposal but, even more importantly, in the reduction of the amount of virgin resources that need to be harvested and processed for the manufacture of new products.

Waste Processing Waste Minimization
Waste Disposal Waste Recycling

Waste
Processing

SANREM Waste processing as the range of activities characterized by the treatment and recovery (use) of materials or energy from waste through thermal, chemical, or biological means. It also covers hazardous waste handling. Generally, there are two main groups of processes to be considered, (1) Biological processes, such as open composting, enclosed composting, anaerobic digestion, and vermiculture, and (2) Thermal processes, such as incineration, and gasification. Examples of reuse in initiatives include: (1) Product reuse – rethreading tires, recovery of demolition materials, reuse of plastic bags, second hand clothing, reconditioning and repair of furniture and appliances; (2) Materials reuse – Liquid-paper board for seedlings planters, bottles, scrap paper for notes/phone messages, mulching; (3) Durable packaging – e.g. milk crates, bread trays, string or calico shopping bags.

Some of the positive effects that would be associated with processed waste in Kenyan urban centres would include, more effective use of resources, employment opportunities in the service and repair industries, support for charity based stores, better protection of products as durable packaging is more robust, and changes in attitudes towards disposable products.

Waste Processing Waste Minimization
Waste Disposal Waste Recycling

Waste
Minimization

SANREM views waste minimization as being aimed at reducing the production of waste through education and improved production process rather than aiming to increase technology to improve treatment of waste. The idea of minimization is not centered on technological advances, it can be viewed as a method of managing existing resources and technology in order to maximize the efficiency of available resource use. Minimizing waste generation has the potential to reduce costs or increase profits by maximizing the use of resources and by reducing the amount of waste to be disposed of the cost of waste management is also decreased.

Waste avoidance for individuals: Buying goods in bulk; reconsidering superfluous purchases; purchasing products in materials/packaging that is readily recycled; use of alternatives, e.g. landscaping that creates mulched gardens in place of lawns; and use of composting and vermiculture practices.

Waste minimization in industry: Change in product design to reduce materials consumption; using crates instead of pallets to avoid the need for shrink wrap; incorporate Eco-Design technology into production processes; adoption of Cleaner Production practices that ensure avoidance through efficiency measures; and conduct regular audits and monitoring of waste reduction/resource recovery practices.

Waste minimization for Local Government: Encourage community ‘avoidance’ activities, e.g. promote competitions rewarding initiative in this area of resource recovery; lead by example, e.g. display mulched gardens throughout the municipality; and provide facilities and infrastructure to assist industry, business and the community to undertake resource recovery practices, e.g. kerbside recycling and resource exchange registers, initiate greener procurement programmes.