Kwa-Muhia Environmental Group on the BBC World Service

Kwa-Muhia Environmental Group on the BBC World Service

In high income countries like Scotland where rubbish is collected and taken away we don’t see waste as a problem – out of sight, out of mind. But in low income countries, waste is a huge and growing problem. Billions of people live amongst waste and live with the health problems and pollution problems it causes every day.

In Kenya, fed up with living with rubbish the Kwa-Muhia Environmental Group took on the challenge in their village.

From this in 2011...

Then this for 8 years...

To this in 2019...

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Initial meeting to discuss environmental problems in the village, including waste management. KMEG was born.

Collecting rubbish discarded around the village

Duncan from KMEG being interviewed by the BBC World Service about their new community recycling centre.

Listen here.

 

 

For KMEG the last 8 years have been a roller coaster ride with highs (it’s all going great) and lows (why-don’t we just give up). In 2011 management of waste was not a hot topic. But in 2019, thanks to David Attenborough and Blue Planet 2, #waste matters.

KMEG now works together with WasteAid. At the end of 2018 the UKAid Small Charities Challenge Fund awarded a grant to the partnership of WasteAid and KMEG to develop a community recycling centre. At the start of this year KMEG built the Recycling Centre and the team have been collecting, sorting, storing, re-cycling and re-purposing waste. The group was put under serious pressure because this week they had a visit from the UKAid team – barely half-way into quarter 2!

The financial target included in the grant is for KMEG to make sufficient income from waste to cover their operating costs by the end of 2020.  The KMEG  team has been busy making various products for sale to showcase during the visit by the UKAid team,  including  drinking glasses from discarded bottles, compost from organic waste, mats from plastic sacks, and recently WasteAid has now found markets for KMEG to sell the various different kinds of plastic waste they have collected too.

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KMEG showcases products made from waste at a UKAid meeting in Nairobi. April 2019

Zero waste is KMEG’s ambition, but in reality this is a long way into the future. However, in 2 years’ time, aided by the grant from UKAid and the expertise and support of WasteAid, the amount of waste in Kwa-Muhia should be reduced by at least 80%. Rubbish will no longer be dumped or burned (releasing CO2) but KMEG will recycle waste into other products, make money and create jobs (or income generating activities if you prefer). 

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The Naivasha rubbish dump with Lake Naivasha centre right. In Scotland waste is disposed at a controlled landfill, it is not dumped like this. KMEG’s target is to reduce the waste sent from their village to this tip by 80%.

 

In addition, this will reduce the spread of diseases arising from poor waste management and improve public health. It will also stop flooding caused by drains blocked by waste and pollution of the adjacent Lake Naivasha which is wildlife rich. Most people prefer living in a clean environment to one strewn with rubbish, so the project is good news for the residents of Kwa-Muhia. Ultimately, this is a great example of the Sustainable Development Goals in action, where progress towards one goal interacts and reinforces progress on others.

The challenge for WasteAid is to replicate KMEGs success in other waste-strewn communities – the world is full of them so WasteAid has plenty of work ahead. WasteAid has just launched a new appeal ‘Widening the Net’ to replicate KMEG’s success; for the next 3 months UKAid Match will match the amount of money raised by WasteAid up to £2m.

Maybe, one day, we can all live in a zero waste world. Anyone want to place a bet which year that might be?