Kenya Signs Waste Management Bill Into Law, Committing to Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants From the Sector

Climate and Clean Air Coalition funding supported a team that drafted the bill, helping to ensure broad stakeholder input and the inclusion of international expertise.

Kenya signed the Sustainable Waste Management Act on July 7, instituting the legal and institutional framework to sustainably and effectively manage the country’s waste, an achievement spurred by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)’s funding of a team of consultants to draft the national waste management bill to reduce SLCPs from the sector.

“The CCAC was the spark that got it all going,” said Erika Rosenthal, an environmental lawyer who was part of a team hired by the CCAC to work with Kenya to reduce SLCPs in the waste sector. “The CCAC coming in and being able to marshall the connections of their network… that was really important. The peer-to-peer exchange from within the continent, the policy support at the CCAC annual meetings, all of this meant that the CCAC played a critical role in enabling this bill to move forward,” said Rosenthal. 

The CCAC funded a team, made up of consultants from the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) and Earthjustice to help build domestic capacity in waste management and draft a bill using a wide variety of stakeholder input to ensure successful implementation long term.

The peer-to-peer exchange from within the continent, the policy support at the CCAC annual meetings, all of this meant that the CCAC played a critical role in enabling this bill to move forward."
Erika Rosenthal
Environmental Lawyer

Sustainable waste management is vital in Kenya, whose capital of Nairobi is home to one of the world’s largest open dumpsites, the Dandora dumpsite, which pollutes the city’s waterways and air. The dumpsite creates hazardous conditions for the thousands of people that live next to the dump and dangerous working conditions for the thousands of waste pickers tasked with informally managing it. It’s estimated that just 10 percent of waste in Kenya is recycled or composted, with the rest landing in dumpsites or collecting on roadsides. 

“There are huge, horrific public health issues around these big, open, uncontrolled dumps in all of the big megacities in Africa and so many places around the world — they create tremendous air quality problems and water contamination problems, along with releasing methane and black carbon into the atmosphere,” said Rosenthal.

The CCAC’s work on waste management is central to the coalition’s work to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), potent climate forcers that last much longer than carbon dioxide and have a much higher warming potential. Methane is one of the most dangerous SLCPs as it is responsible for 40 percent of warming since the industrial revolution. It is also driving increases in tropospheric ozone pollution, which is responsible for over a million premature deaths every year. Waste is responsible for 18 percent of human-made methane emissions, making bills like Kenya’s an incredibly important part of maintaining a habitable planet. 

Kenya joined the CCAC in 2014 with the goal of reducing SLCPs to improve public health and create sustainable development, while also slowing the impact of short-term warming.

Ensuring that the bill was collaborative included holding multiple meetings with the Cabinet Secretary and the Ministry’s senior management during which the CCAC-supported team provided them with technical and legal training on waste management laws. As part of this work, they brought an expert from South Africa to share expertise on the country’s passage of their own waste management law.

The team first developed a National Waste Policy, the first step before drafting a bill. The initial Waste Management Bill was drafted in 2017 and then went through an extensive consultation process to get community and civil society inputs. These public consultations occurred in six different parts of the country and involved gathering and integrating the input of civil society groups, independent recyclers, and waste picker associations. 

Once the bill was in its final form, it made its way through the lower house, the assembly, and the Senate before President Uhuru Kenyatta finally signed it into law — a process that took, in total, six years of work.

“It is going to be a paradigm shift in the way we manage our waste, not just plastic. We are moving away from a linear approach to a circular one,” Chris Kiptoo, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry told KTN News when the bill first passed parliament. “All along all our waste have not been sorted and it is transported before they are sorted and we dump them. We want to move away from that mixed form of waste. There is a value from waste.”

It is going to be a paradigm shift in the way we manage our waste, not just plastic. We are moving away from a linear approach to a circular one.”
Chris Kiptoo
Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya

The goals of the bill include improving public health in Kenya, reducing air pollution, making waste services effective, creating green jobs in the waste management and recycling sectors, and encouraging behaviour changes when it comes to individual and household waste management, among other things.

The bill aims to accomplish these goals with a multi-pronged approach that includes tax reform to incentivize private investment in recycling and treatment facilities. It also includes a waste separation plan to divide organic and inorganic waste so that the former can be used for composting and creates standards for organic compost. It also outlines public awareness programs to help Kenyans better understand the impact of waste management on their own health as well as that of the environment. 

The bill also establishes a Waste Management Council which will be the central coordinating body when it comes to the country’s waste management, including the coordination required to meet its international obligations when it comes to waste management and domestic support, such as offering technical assistance for county governments to develop their own waste plans. 

The bill mandates that each county create their own sustainable waste management legislation within one year of the national bill's passage. It requires counties to establish their own recycling centres and sanitary landfills and to compel their cities to create waste management facilities. Counties must also maintain waste management data and submit regular reports to the national government for approval. The bill further compels private companies to develop waste management plans, subject to government approval.

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