A new report commissioned by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA), which we delivered alongside Capital Operating Partners, has estimated that around 174,000 tonnes of plastic packaging is either left in the environment, or taken to illegal dump sites, each year in Kenya.

The final figures in the study, which estimates the overall Plastic Packaging Waste Flow in Kenya, showed that the amount of plastic packaging from trade and manufacturing is approximately 260,000 tonnes per year. Our researchers met with industry stakeholders, including many Kenyan plastics recycling companies, to carry out surveys in order to identify how much packaging is placed on the market annually, and how much is recycled: no accurate data was available from existing sources. They found that an estimated 174,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are left in the environment or at illegal waste sites; around 48,000 tonnes are sent to landfill (or a minimal amount is sent to incineration); and around 37,000 tonnes are recycled. With an approximate recycling rate of 15%, Kenya achieves a similar level of packaging recycling as countries in the Western Balkans, where collection for recycling is carried out mainly by waste pickers.

Tim Elliott, our Principal Consultant and report author said:

Kenya is making good progress when it comes to tackling plastic pollution. Having already introduced a carrier bag ban, the country is now taking steps to understand how to manage other types of plastic as a useful resource. It’s looking first to understand what’s out there, before then starting to improve the management of what’s there.

“There are still, however, massive quantities of unmanaged waste, with huge numbers of illegal waste sites, and widespread littering, so there’s lots more to be done. Now could be the time to raise awareness around other problematic single use plastics and to explore the role extended producer responsibility can play in holding businesses accountable for managing packaging waste, and improving its recyclability.

“We hope this research is a good step towards Kenya developing a credible strategy towards managing plastics and other wastes.”

Plastic Packaging Waste Flow in Kenya was the result of a partnership between Kenyan and Danish authorities, as well as private sector stakeholders. The study is part of the ongoing Strategic Environment Sector Partnership Cooperation (SSC) between Kenya & Denmark (DEPA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The partnership takes a circular economy approach, focusing on enhancing resource efficiency in the Kenyan manufacturing sector. This includes supporting Kenyan authorities and the private sector in the development of a recycling strategy for plastic packaging in Kenya, by sharing Danish and international experiences.

Image by Meaduva, courtesy of Flickr.