From waste to wealth

How an innovative application is changing the narrative on waste

December 1, 2022
Mr. Eliazer Mabwai, CEO Taka Taka ni Mali making a presentation on waste recovery process at the Kitengela Waste Management Entrepreneurship Hub.

Mr. Eliazer Mabwai, CEO Taka Taka ni Mali making a presentation on waste recovery process at the Kitengela Waste Management Entrepreneurship Hub.

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Globally, many countries lack the resources needed to process the growing amount of solid waste and much of it ends up in dumpsites - large tracks of land where household and commercial waste is disposed of. Nearly 20 of the world's 50 biggest dumpsites are in Africa, according to Waste Atlas. There are hundreds of landfill dumpsites spread across Kenya with the largest being Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi. Under-utilized and unmanaged waste materials especially in dumpsites pose a serious risk to the environment and human health, with the greatest negative impact felt by the most vulnerable in society.  In 2020, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services identified 100 illegal dumpsites in Nairobi County, 82 of which were cleared of solid waste and closed.

In Kitengela, Kajiado County a dumpsite sits right in the middle of a residential area called Noonkopir where next to the piling mountain of waste are homes, schools and businesses. The Kitengela dumpsite receives waste from thousands of households beyond Kitengela town and is increasing in volume and size each day. It is an eyesore and a pain point for many of the residents living near the dumpsite.

However, there is a story around this dumpsite that is a story of hope and change. An organization called Taka Taka ni Mali, which in Kiswahili means Waste in Wealth, sees the mountain of waste as an opportunity to create livelihoods and jobs. Working with the Kajiado County Government, the organization has developed a platform and an ecosystem that connects household waste to a market that is able to repurpose the waste thus averting tonnes of waste away from the dumpsite.

From Right to Left, H.E Deputy Governor of Kajiado, Mr. Martin Moshisho Martine, HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Hon. Soipan Suya, at the Kitengela Dumpsite on 22 November 2022 on a visit hosted by UNDP Kenya.

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Waste that arrives at dumpsites is hardly ever sorted, separated or in a state possible for regeneration. It requires the effort of informal waste collectors to scavenge through the waste to identify what is redeemable and what is not. These waste collectors eke a living from picking through the waste that is dumped by dozens of waste trucks each day. They do this under tough conditions and often without any protective gear or supporting tools of trade. In 2021, Kajiado County Government set up a Waste Management Entrepreneurship Hub in Kitengela as part of their County Solid Waste Management Strategy. The County Waste Management Entrepreneurship Hubs (CWMEH) are a pioneer model within the country, that facilitates linkages between waste generators, waste users and recyclers in a market system that contributes to the reduction of inorganic waste at the dumpsite and the related health risks caused by mismanagement of solid waste.

Taka Taka ni Mali in partnership with Kajiado County see the Hub as a valuable part of the waste management cycle. Leveraging technology as part of this cycle, Taka Taka ni Mali have launched an innovative application that allows waste collectors to be connected directly to households and collaboratively manage the waste in a manner that increases its value. Waste that is segregated at source has more economic value than that which is not segregated. More than 500 households have subscribed through the application to have waste collectors collect and transport their waste to the dumpsite where it is further segregated, processed and sold to buyers such as Mr Green Africa, a recycling company that sells pre-processed recycling materials.  The application has attracted more than 35 waste aggregators who make a living from the waste. The waste is sold between 20-50Ksh per kilogram depending on the type (plastic, aluminium, glass or paper).

The intervention by Taka Taka ni Mali and the Kajiado County Government is envisioned to see a reduction of waste at the Kitengela dumpsite and plans are underway to scale this model across the country. At the Kitengela dumpsite, a story is shaping of value connections where waste can journey from where it is not needed, to where there is a need, thus, sustaining livelihoods.

Taka Taka ni Mali received financial and technical support from UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kenya to test and pilot the application in Kajiado County. The Accelerator Lab is tasked with identifying innovative solutions, testing prototypes and adopting an experiential approach to development work to scale and grow local solutions to global and national challenges. Plans to scale up this intervention include deploying it in other counties and adding on to the platform an incentivizing model to ensure that households are sustainably engaged in the waste management process through reward schemes. A multi-stakeholder approach is integral in realizing this vision.

UNDP Kenya hosted the Crown Princess of Sweden and Crown Prince of Norway in a visit to the country on November 21st, 2022, where they showcased this intervention as a model for integrated and sustainable waste management. The visit highlights and reinforces the close business cooperation between Norway, Sweden and Kenya. The theme of the visit was sustainable and knowledge-based value creation.

By Caroline Kiarie- Kimondo, Social Innovation Specialist, UNDP