Makutano Plastic Recycling Project, Kenya
For many years Africa has had a problem with waste plastic. Huge quantities are consumed (particularly, but not limited to, water bottles), and most of it finds its way into landfill sites or is just dumped on the roadsides. Wanting to help, a UK charity called Throw a Starfish that works in Africa launched a project earlier this year to set up a plastic recycling plant in the Mount Kenya region of Kenya. Not only will this ensure plastic is recycled, but it will also provide much-needed employment in the local area.
Plastic waste has been a major problem in Africa for years. Without the infrastructure to process the waste, the plastic has swamped these nations, filling waterways, clogging roads and fields, and becoming intricately mixed into animal feed. Plastics don’t biodegrade, so the tiny shreds will remain in water, soil, and air for centuries.
Although Kenya has started to address the problem of plastics by outlawing plastic bags, there is still no government-funded waste collection or recycling system and it is one of the dozens of developing countries where plastic is causing massive human rights and child labour problems, in addition to environmental devastation.
The unemployment rate among young people in Kenya is high and increased in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the previous quarter. In the age group between 20 and 24, the rate stood at 16.3 per cent, up from 15 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when Throw a Starfish could not send volunteers overseas, they partnered with B.O.H.I. (Beacon Of Hope International), one of their partners, to tackle some aspects of climate change locally in Kenya.
The project aims to:
- Set up an efficient, well-run and reproducible plastic recycling facility in Makutano, Kirinyaga county in the Central Province of Kenya;
- Recycle plastic and clean up the local environment, making a positive impact on climate change;
- Educate people, particularly children and younger people, about the challenges of climate change and motivate them to change their behaviour by reducing, reusing and recycling plastic;
- Provide employment for, and empower, unemployed local young people, to staff the centre.
Phase one of the project involves building a recycling facility at Makutano, near Mount Kenya, capable of recycling 0.5 tonnes of plastic per day. Output from this project will be a mix of granulated PET plastic sold on the international market and granular other types of plastic sold on the local market.
Phase two will add an extruder to the equipment to enable the production of plastic-based building materials such as bricks and tiles.
The big goal is to replicate this facility in other areas around Mount Kenya. Once the initial recycling plant has been set up, it will produce income which in time should make this possible.