Posted in Kenya my country

Solid Waste Management in Kenya- the role of waste reclaimers

Solid waste management is a fundamental prerequisite in ensuring sustainable environment. It is the collection, transportation, processing, recycling and/ or disposal of solid waste. Solid waste is the material arising from various human activities normally solids or semi-solids – considered as useless or unwanted. Waste generation rates vary according to: Geographical place, Season of the year, collection frequency, characteristic of the population and extent of salvaging.

Urbanization has transformed solid waste into a major public health and environmental concern in our urban areas. This is especially tough on the urban poor who are left to deal with waste disposal on their own. The lack of support in waste management has serious consequences on their health & on the urban environment.
To ensure sustainable environment and reduction of solid waste through source separation of the valuable material and recycling them, these communities are often forced to come up with ways of solving the waste problem.

Solid Waste Management in urban areas remain a big menace in Kenya

Most municipal councils and city councils who are trusted with waste disposal in Kenya dispose their waste at a disposal site (usually former quarry pits). Waste is emptied into the pit without compaction.
Solid waste reclaimers have come in as a blessing. In Kenya, a few years ago it was not common to see waste reclaimers and waste pickers but today they are a big part of the waste management sector both in the residential areas and the cities.

However, little has been done to find various groups of Solid waste reclaimers and find the organizations working and supporting reclaimers & interviewing them on how they offer their support to the group members. There are plenty of Solid waste reclaimer organizations especially in the slums having the same goals of making the environment clean and organizations that support the reclaimer groups in the town ready to offer as much support as they can, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to Solid Waste Management in large scale.
The reclaimer groups are mostly in need of knowledge & skills concerned with solid waste, trainings, financially support, by-laws which will govern them, infrastructure, tool & equipment.
In a recent study in four major cities in Kenya the Municipal councils are supporting the reclaimer groups because they recognize that while they can only manage 20% of the solid waste, the reclaimers are managing 15% of solid waste without half as resources as the municipal councils. In Kisumu such as the relationship between the Municipal and the reclaimer groups is good because the give recognition letters & work permit to these groups and offer transportation of the waste from transfer point to the dumping site. They also give tools & equipments e.g. brooms, rakes, spades etc.

The need for sustainable and ecologically practical solutions to solid waste management cannot be overstated. This must be driven by local solutions such as would be found in a business approach to solid waste management. Everywhere one looks; we see models of local sanitation businesses. These efforts however do not seem to have managed to bridge the gap for financial services to these sector. As observed, local businesses are there but faced with many challenges ranging from poor infrastructure for waste disposal, negative public perception and little or minimal linkages with the major financiers mainly because these venture are either too localized or not commercially viable for large-scale financiers. Sustainable local solutions must not only positive attitude and supporting legislations but also local financing.

As viewed from the waste management research done recently by Ecotact and WIEGO, the waste reclaimers are often looked down upon as engaging in loathsome and dirty work, in business term this shunning away has not only been at community level but also by the financing institutions who perhaps do not see the profitable implication of a partnership with these waste collectors. Opening space for the entrepreneur to interact is therefore critical to opening up the local businesses to opportunities for financing.

Visibility of the local small and micro entrepreneur is compounded by the problem of lack of representation of this critical sector in the larger sanitation provision forum. Secondly, due to the often negative perception of the business, the entrepreneurs are not sufficiently empowered to discuss their business.
The high demand for the services of the waste managers is clear as seen in interviews of local waste pickers and organizations supporting them in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa. From a livelihood perspective it is seen as a means of profitable employment that is able to sustain the needs of the entrepreneur, his employee(s) and families by extension.



Eco-entrepreneur and a Project Manager in Auckland, New Zealand.

50 thoughts on “Solid Waste Management in Kenya- the role of waste reclaimers

    1. Garbage collection has been privatised Pitzevans. In Nakuru forexample, they are given zones and the council ensures they perform. The most neglected are the waste pickers and waste because they are rarely registered.

      1. Very informative and interesting to know we still have few professionals like you in our country who are constantly educating and seeking to bring positive change in the social environmental management especially in SWM. I would very much be interested to compare notes with you if you have time, since i am deeply involved in SWM technology here in the US.


  1. hae Judy, this content was of great help to me… am undergraduate student in the University of Nairobi on my final year. am doing my final project on waste management. .. Do you have more related information so that you can kindly assist me with it… my email ( thanks.

  2. Really informative I’m currently based as a waste management consultant in Nbi and I am struggling to get information on tonnages of waste available..? who is recycling ..?where do they get materials from …?There are a few projects Ive heard of like the use of plastic bottles to make street posts and the Kitengela project which uses waste glass but where are the drop off points..? Any info would be great:-)

  3. The collapse in proper waste management streams from lack of ethical values related from household to the societal level.

  4. I have enjoyed reading your article and the comments from fellow environmentalists. I currently writing a project proposal on solid waste management in South Eastern University College, Kitui .Please help me with ideas on how to go a bout it.

  5. I don’t have articles specifically for Embu but I can get you in touch with a group of development minded people from Embu who are keen on making Embu a sustainable town. Let me know if that will help. I will be in Kenya sometime beginning of next year and I would be interested in hearing about your work.

  6. Hi, great article. My partner and i are looking at investing in waste management, especially in collection and separation for recycling. Any tips?

    1. Hi Christine. Thanks for your reply. Been really busy. Well, it depends with the type of waste. What are you looking at? please send me an email and we can take it from there because I am also looking at investing in glass recycling (my email address is

  7. Hi. I am a student in the university of Nairobi. I would love to know more on the topic of waste management. Any information forwarded to my email – – will be highly appreciated. I would like to make schools, businesses more self-sufficient and self-reliable.That is my aim and vision.

      1. Judy,
        I hope this reply finds you well.
        Recycling has been a hobby of mine or quite some time. I try my very best to do so. Keeping the environment clean and habitable is my bigger picture. Just last weekend i was in NKOKOLONI that borders the Mau in Narok planting trees. I am as we speak part of the organizing committee for a race known as the EARTH RACE that will take place in Karura forest on SATURDAY 26 MARCH 2014 to commemorate the WORLD EARTH DAY which is on the 22nd of the same month. Do come join us. For moe information on the matter please call 0720 406 222 which is my number…

      2. Hi Judy,

        I’m a big supporter of recycling karuga forest i’m in the kitisuru area working on a recycling scheme
        We should meet up sometime

        Best wishes

      3. Hi Judy,

        Sorry I meant to reply to you on the Karura forest mention I sent an email to Ellam instead oops

        Let me know when next your in the area I would love to meet up and chat all things green and recycling

        Best wishes

      4. Hi Alison, always great to hear from you. I am away in New Zealand right now but will be back in a couple of months and we can have coffee or something. Thank you very much for contributing here. You have my email address so feel free to email me and let me know how your work is going. I would like to get involved.

  8. Thank you for any other great article. Where else may just anybody get that type of info in such a
    perfect manner of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the look
    for such information.

  9. hi Judy. am a student at Catholic University of Eastern Africa and doing a research project on the potential of income generation from solid waste.liked your Blog and it is helpful.keep up!!!.

  10. Hi judy,I am currently writing a project proposal on SWM in Kakamega town,I am looking to invest in the collection and recycling of the waste,any ideas will be greatly appreciated

  11. Hi Judy, your blog post is really informative, thanks for the insight. I am doing a project on solid waste recycling whereby commercial enterprise has developed in solid waste management; and peole have been able to derive livelihood out of recycling initiatives; with case studies being drawn from Kenya and Malawi. Your blog post has been really helpful with information for my research. Again, kudos and keep up the good work. If you have more information on SWM, please do share with us!

  12. Hi Judy, not to sure if you will see this post. I’m just wondering if you can help me with some information. I’m currently writing a briefing paper for implementing a waste managment plan as a university assignment. Do you know where I might be able to access information such as does Embu county have a dumping pit? does the local county provide waste collection or is that left up to NGO’s or private companies. I live in Australia but travel to Kenya every second year to do projects, mostly in Kangeta and Embu. I’m planning on being in Embu next year and hope to try and implement a small waste management project near the medical clinic that I have assisted in establishing that is run by the sisters of the good shepherd. Any information would be great as I’m having difficulties in locating any substainal information on Embu’s Waste Management Plans.
    Thanks heaps.

    1. Hello Judy. Thank you for this platform. I would like to reply to Becci regarding the query on Embu waste management. I actually did my university internship for my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies in Kenyatta University in the year 2003. I was attached at the Embu Municipal Council. During that period I was able to research on solid waste management during several inspections under the departmentwithin the Council. During that time there was a problem with the medical waste which after it was collected from the main Hospital, it would be dumped in an open field which was not fenced far away from Embu town. As for now i do not have any recent information as per the current waste management in the county. I am from this County, but however do not reside there. Once in a while I visit my mum who lives about 5km from Embu Town. incase you would like to involve me in the project, you can contact me via this platform. All the best.

  13. Am planning to start refuse handling business. please give me some insight on how to start contact

  14. Hey Judy, the article is great and has a great insight on solid waste management. I am a university student and i am required to write a proposal on waste and garbage collection and disposal. Any information that you may have on the topic would be of much help. My email address is

  15. very educative indeed but the problem with Kenyans is to politicize and form a group of cartels through government who only sleep on the job and siphon money from the public e.g look at the vehicles designed for waste collection,landfills ,incinerators if any exist,the whole system in solid waste management in Kenya is a rot and its high timepeople like Nyokabi and me who understands the short term and long term effects of solid waste on the environmental health socio -economic health and biodiversity at large came in for rescue of our pursued a Bsc in environmental management and conservation at masinde muliro university and looking for internship in any organization which embrace environmental sustainability please any connection would be highly appreciated

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