By Patricia Akinyi K’Omudho-Chief Environment Officer (MSWM-CE)


Nairobi County is heavily polluted with solid waste and an urgent intervention to address the menace is needed. We realize that since Nairobi City is a global environment capital, Kenya needs to demonstrate this leadership through proper waste management. It is inspiring when we have entities coming up with solutions rather than the usual complaints that may exacerbate the prevailing problems.

Supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Nairobi City formulated the Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy 2011-2030 that captures 8 programmes:

  1. Waste collection and transportation of segregated waste
  2. Resource recovery
  3. Sustainable final disposal through a sanitary engineered landfill
  4. Organizational restructuring and human resource development
  5. Legal and institutional reform
  6. Financial management
  7. Private sector involvement
  8. Public Participation and Promotion

Due to a myriad of challenges, the Strategy was hardly implemented. However, one of the outputs is the NCCG Solid Waste Management Act, 2015 that provides a legal framework for solid waste management in the City. This function is spelt out in Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. The Solid Waste Management Act captures:

  • Colour coding, waste categorization and segregation
  • Resource recovery
  • Revolving fund
  • Duty of care to all waste generators
  • Franchise system for a robust waste collection and transportation model
  • Cleaner production 
  • Compliance and enforcement measures

Municipal solid waste is a by-product of our diverse day to day activities.  Strictly speaking, we are all generators of waste. Waste Management is the responsibility of everyone (including but not limited to individuals, communities, businesses, industries, institutions and Government). For this reason, the Nairobi City County Solid Waste Management Act cites Article 69 of the Constitution of Kenya; hence providing a framework to encourage public participation in the management, conservation and protection of the environment.


Currently, the daily waste generated in the City is about 3,086 tonnes. As much as the UN-Habitat Survey, 2019 revealed that the waste collection rate increased to 65% from about 60% as at JICA, 2010 survey; the City was still dirty. This necessitated the transition from the linear model to the circular model in waste management. 

The city of Nairobi generates about 422 tons of plastic waste daily. 91% is collected and 9% is uncollected. Of the plastic waste collected, 49% is dumped at the final disposal site, 3% is sorted by formal sector for recovery and 28% is sorted by Informal sector Indeed the informal sector is a major player in the circular economy. About 21% of plastic waste is leaked in environment daily due to in-efficiencies of collection and management.

The table below highlights the extent of plastic waste mismanagement at various stages.

Uncollected waste 42.43%
Informal sorting 26.60%
Waste collection service 24.22%
Designated disposal sites 4.63%
Waste transportation 1.14%
Informal value chain collection 0.89%
Formal sorting 0.07%

Through a circular economy model, we purpose to minimize cases of uncollected waste and maximise opportunities for formal sorting of waste.

The County waste management system is constrained and strategically requires the involvement of all waste generators to actualize separation of waste at source and separation at collection sites in order to reduce the waste taken to the final City dumpsite. 

Nairobi City County Government seeks to appropriately manage solid waste in the circular economy model. As the country transits from the linear model, Nairobi City County is the pilot in this process from which other counties will learn. In this respect, we are implementing the Sustainable Waste Management Action Plan. The purpose is to achieve a clean and healthy City, reduce cost of waste management and create jobs. The Action Plan captures six key components as listed below to be addressed in a multi-sectoral and multi-agency approach including all relevant stakeholders:

  1. Education and public awareness
  2. Introduction of waste separation at source
  3. Upgrading waste collection and transportation logistics
  4. Investing in waste recovery and final disposal
  5. Strengthening governance and finance
  6. Sustainable production for waste prevention


Inadequate data and information: There is need for an accessible platform on actors in plastic waste, varieties of plastic that are recyclable and not as well as products made from plastic waste.

Inadequate public awareness and sensitization: There should be a continuous collaborative programme that should be included in the education curriculum.

Inadequate legal framework: There is need for National EPR regulations and City guidelines.

Inadequate supporting infrastructure: There is need for appropriate waste receptacles, MRFs and plastic waste processing facilities.

Inadequate incentives: There is need to harmonize waste handling legal requirements amongst lead agencies and provide green affordable authorization for sustainable plastic waste handlers.


Supportive stakeholders

Adoption of a circular economy model in the City is timely with the new political dispensation that is passionate about making Nairobi work.

The National Government is ready to support this process now that the Sustainable Waste Management Policy and Act were recently published.

There is an increase in green funding opportunities for sustainable waste management initiatives.

Nairobi has a robust private sector that is zealous about circular economy. They have challenged NCCG as they take the lead.

There is a growing capacity building space allowing practitioners to be well informed and skilled.

Existing legal framework

Nairobi City County Government (NCCG) has formulated a legal framework to enhance sustainable plastic waste management. 

The Solid Waste Management Act, 2015 provides for the need to segregate waste streams; plastic included. This enables recovery of more valuable plastic for reuse. The Nairobi City County Plastic Control Act, 2016 provides for the control on the manufacture, usage and disposal of plastic carry bags and other plastic products so as to maintain and restore a clean environment in the County of Nairobi City and connected purposes. In fact, this was enhanced by the National Ban on manufacture, sale and use of plastic carrier bags and flat bags for domestic and commercial packaging in Kenya, 2017. Since then there has been tremendous improvement in the cleanliness of the City. Plastic packaging was a major component of litter especially carrier bags.

Kenya has also recently, in 2019, adopted various standards for recycled plastic packaging materials with a view to not only protecting public safety and health but also to ensure environmental protection.

The use of plastic bottles, straws and related products in all national parks, national reserves, conservation areas and any other wildlife designated areas. Indeed, Nairobi hosts a number of these conserved spaces. The ban took effect on the 4th of June 2020. 

In 2018, Nairobi actively participated in the World Habitat Day that initiated the ‘Waste-Wise-City’ campaign. In that breath, Nairobi updated its municipal solid waste data base supported by UN-Habitat. The findings revealed that Nairobi experiences about 35% of uncollected municipal waste. This is the main source of marine pollution. Actually, over 80% of plastic marine waste is from land based sources. In Kenya this results in 4.5Kg per person annual plastic leakage to water bodies exacerbating climate change effects as well as public health concerns. Nairobi County being a cosmopolitan city, definitely contributes largely to marine litter compared to other counties.

NCCG supports plastic waste recovery by authorizing eligible actors in the resource industry. They operate Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) from which plastic is the main waste stream recovered. The actors include private waste collection companies, Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and recycling companies. actors have MRFs. 

Led by the National Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Vintz Plastics- a recycling company and Nyayo Estate-residential establishment that has recovered 3.3 tons of plastics in the past 3 years were honored for their circularity in plastic waste management as the country transitions from the linear model of managing waste to the circular economy model.

NCCG has formulated a sustainable waste management action plan-the circular economy model. This will be supported by corresponding National legal framework to create a conducive environment to end plastic pollution. Already the private sector has taken initiative in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) component by establishing Producer Responsibility Organizations; mainly composed of plastic packaging dealers at the moment. 

In light of the above, we need to explore options on sustainable plastic production because we may not be able to face out all plastic at once. Circular Economy is about smart product design to prevent waste production. This was timely for Nairobi City as we hosted UNEA5.2

Youthful and innovative entities ready to offer solutions.

A circular economy model is an avenue for job creation and investment opportunities. There is an energetic populace that is passionate about tackling societal problems with modern technology.