Seven reasons why Kenya banned the plastic carrier bags?

Plastics were introduced in Kenya in the 1960s as a simple solution for packaging. The polythene bags use gained momentum over the years. Shoppers were supplied with excess of these bags and one could request for any number of bags so long as there was something to be packed. Unfortunately, consumers did not know what to do with them once they unwrapped the bought items. There was little awareness on proper disposal of the bags and appropriate mechanisms of their disposal was lacking.

Plastic bags were favoured by industry, retailers and the public for the following reasons.
1. They are cost-effective, easy to use, and convenient to store.
2. They are available in bulk purchases at very low cost as compared to alternative bags such as reusable cloth bags.
3. Plastic bags are quicker to open, pack, and double up than other bags.
4. Plastic bags are light and require less storage space than other bags.

Over the years, these bags continued to be dumped recklessly and turned into a rather costly undertaking. The plastic bags turned out to be the biggest challenge in solid waste management.

Kenya’s resolve to ban Polythene bags was informed by scientific evidence of the negative effects of the same. The seven reasons why Kenya banned use of plastic carrier bags include the following:-

1. Reduce environmental aesthetics

Once used and disposed improperly, polythene bags becomes litter and finds it’s way into waterways, parks, beaches and streets reducing their aesthetics. Evidence of being near an urban centre was the increase in prevalence of all colour of polythene bags. Our trees were full of differently coloured bags blown by wind.

For the tourist sector, Kenya’s selling point is her natural and scenic beauty, which needs to be safeguarded. A major concern is that the highways being the gateways to Kenya’s major tourist attraction destinations were strewn with scattered plastic waste. Our national parks were no longer natural and were littered either by tourists or through polythene bags blown by wind. Nakuru National Park for instance was collecting tons of polythene bags either blown by wind into the park or carried to the lake by the rivers draining therein. Every month, Nakuru National Park used over Kshs 1 million to clear the polythene bags in the park.

2. Release toxic fumes when burnt

If burned, they pollute air with toxic fumes that contain chemicals including dioxins and furans, which have been linked with cancer. It is common to find people burning waste at dumpsites and at residential areas. The smoke flows freely and people seemed not to be aware of the dangers they were exposed to. Hence many people may have been exposed to carcinogens from plastic smoke.

3. Kills animals after ingesting the bags

They are a threat to aquatic life, wildlife animals and livestock whereby if ingested, the polythene bags fill the gut of the animal and kill it, and remain intact even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Data from abattoirs in Kenya indicated that at least one case per day of animals with plastics in their digestive systems is reported in every abattoir. The most affected livestock are cows, which may be attributed to the selective feeding preferences of other types of livestock such as sheep and goats. A case was reported of a slaughtered cow with an average of 2.5 kilograms of plastic waste in its lumen. This has negative economic impacts especially in dairy cows.

Kenya’s marine ecosystem was not spared either. Every year, tons of polythene bags and other waste was collected from our oceans especially during Coastal Cleanup day. The oceans were littered with all types of polythene bags and marine animals were found with these bags in their lumen.

4. Contribute to flooding in urban areas

Flimsy polythene bags litter clogs drainage and sewer lines increasing the costs of maintenance, and if unattended lead to flooding of urban areas during heavy rains. This makes our roads impassable and cuts off some areas when it rains. If flooding worsens, it can lead to drowning, destruction of houses and loss of life.

5. Act as breeding grounds for harmful organisms

Polythene bags trap stagnant water which becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes that cause malaria which can kill people.The littered bags also provide hideouts for other harmful organisms such as rats, cockroaches and snakes which can harm people either directly or as carriers of disease causing microbes.

6. Take centuries to decompose

The decomposition of polythene bags takes about 1000 years and this means that they remain for long in the environment. Hence the polythene bags that were introduced in Kenya in the 1960’s is still lying somewhere in the environment causing harm to the planet and people.

7. Legal and policy demands

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 Article 42 assures all Kenyans a clean and healthy environment, of course with a demand upon all people to be responsible to safeguard this right. Article 69 obligates the government to eliminate all processes and activities that degrade the environment. Polythene bags are a common environmental menace and needs to be removed from the environment.

To fulfil these constitutional demands, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has developed several policies, key among them being the Sessional Paper No. 10 of 2014 on Environment Policy. The waste management agenda is further legislated in EMCA Cap 287 and its associated Waste Management Regulations 2006. In addition, the National Solid Waste Management Strategy 2014 further elaborates actions to be taken to address the waste challenge at national and county level.

This Gazette notice No. 2356 issued on 28th February 2017 banned the plastic carrier bags and was a culmination of a healthy debate between the government and the private sector on solid waste management especially on how to eliminate the polythene bags. This engagement started in 2007 when the first legislation was imposed through a finance bill. This bill introduced excise duty on importation of polythene raw materials and products. However, this intervention did not help to solve the plastic bags menace. Hence the discussion between the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, NEMA and the private sector through the Kenya Association of Manufacturers continued, without much result.

From 2007, the main complaint from the private sector was loss of jobs. However careful analysis of this complaint revealed that the direct jobs related to polythene bags were mainly confined in Nairobi where the factories were located. The indirect jobs were mainly retail of the polythene bags. Hence these jobs were localized, engaged only a few people since the system was automated and mechanical; but the environmental damage was nationwide.

This analysis also showed that a shift from polythene carrier bags to alternative bags could create more jobs all over the country. The alternative packaging industry would also revive indigenous art craft and growing of some crops such as sisal and cotton. Hence the cost benefit analysis indicated that removal of carrier bags had elevated levels of livelihood gains as well as environmental conservation benefits.

EMCA Cap 387 requires that NEMA advises the office of the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) on diverse aspects of environmental management including the areas requiring additional legislation, policies and guidelines. In the case of the plastic carrier bags ban, NEMA advised the Cabinet Secretary to impose a ban on plastic carrier bags.

Law making process demands for extensive consultation with the Attorney General’s office where legal drafting is done. The Cabinet Secretary MENR consulted at length with the Attorney General’s office and the gazette notice no. 2356 was refined and published on 28th February 2017 and a grace period of 6 months was given to the industry and the public to adjust to the ban. The ban became effective on 28th August 2017.

The plastic carrier bags ban has been in place for some time. The alternative bags production has been upscaled and has employed many people from across the country. It is also interesting to note that this livelihood option employs people of all levels of education and gender. Hence it enhances inclusivity.

Since the ban became effective, the country appears to be getting cleaner. The plastic bags littering that was an eyesore is reducing. The residential areas now look less littered. There is hope that if all people comply with the ban and stop using the polythene bags, all the challenges associated with the polythene bags will not be there anymore.

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Weeping over the polythene bags

The crackdown on offences relating to the plastic carrier bags has been enhanced. Every day, the daily newspapers are awash with reports on people taken to court and fined heavily for crimes related to the plastic carrier bag.

It is an offence to use, import or manufacture plastic carrier bags in Kenya. This is after the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) advised the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) to legislate against the plastic bags. Hence on 28th February 2017, the Cabinet Secretary (MENR) gazetted the plastic carrier bags ban, with an effective date commencing six months later (28th August 2017)

After 28th August, Kenyans who are still in love with the polythene bags have been doing their business hinding. I have visited several places and whenever I confront somebody selling their wares in plastic bags, the first response is that of flight. They seem ready to take off and run away if my engagement suggests enforcement action. This implies that Kenyans are aware of the plastic carrier bags ban, and breaking the law is rather deliberate. This justifies the need for enforcement action being undertaken by NEMA.

When NEMA arrests a plastic carrier bags culprit, a case file is prepared and submitted to court. According to the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) Cap 387, those found guilty of offences risk being fined between Kshs 2 million to 4 million or imprisonment of between 1 year to 4 years. These penalties are very high. There are very few Kenyans who can afford this minimum fine of Kshs 2 million.

The courts initially took a very lenient route, but as days go by, the penalties have been increasing. Those arrested in earlier days benefitted from warnings from the courts. This has graduated into fines of Kshs. 5000. Others have had to part with heavy cash bonds ranging from Ksh 100,000 to Kshs 2 million. It is becoming a reality that soon, somebody will be fined the full amount prescribed in EMCA Cap 387. Imagine just possessing a few polythene bags making one to part with all this money. Funny thing, many Kenyans have ears but they don’t hear, they have eyes but do not see. Every day, we are witnessing new culprits being aligned in court.

No government would wish to subject its citizens to any pain. The arrests of Kenyans and their prosecution in court is regrettable. But why do Kenyans want to continue with old habits even after they have been legislated against?
Can the government close its eyes when Kenyans ignore a law meant to make the environment more pristine. Possibly not. Every day, the NEMA enforcers wish that all Kenyans would comply to the plastic bags ban and there would be no need to disturb people as they go ahead with their daily chores. But this has not happened, hence a few Kenyans have found themselves in court. Very regrettable indeed.

The intention of the polythene bags ban was not to diminish Kenyans’ comfort with regard to packaging of their wares. To the contrary, the government wished Kenyans to make packaging more enjoyable, one that does not lead to a degraded environment. The use of the alternative bags was meant to be full of fun where one takes care of his or her packaging bag and reuses it over and over. This implies that there would be enhanced attachment to the alternative bag which becomes albeit like a souvenir.

I take this opportunity to warn my friends to beware that enforcement of the ban on plastic carrier bags is on in full gear. The courts are already operating within the provisions of EMCA Cap 387. You can be fined Kshs 2 million, and this may make you to be a bother to your friends and relatives. If you are unable to pay the fine, your family and friends may miss you for a period of not less than one year. In either way, jail or fine, economic, social and opportunity costs losses will be enormous. Please keep off the plastic carrier bags.

After the polythene ban, which bags shall remain in use in Kenya?

On 28th February 2017, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural resources issued the Gazette notice No. 2356, banning the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. The gazette notice effective date will be Monday, 28th August 2017.

Does this date signify the end of use of plastic bags in Kenya? To a big extent this is true. Most of the carrier bags will not be used in Kenya any more. But a few polythene bags will remain as I will explain below.

Since publishing of the ban, the stakeholders dealing with polythene bags have held numerous meetings with NEMA presenting their case on why the ban should not be implemented on certain products. From these meetings, the ban has been interpreted in an effort to clarify which polythene bags will remain, to ensure that businesses are not adversely affected. NEMA has explained this on their website (www.nema.go.ke) as frequently asked questions. In this regard, NEMA has proposed several exemptions to the polythene ban. The exemptions are classified in several categories as listed below.

Category 1: Plastic carrier bags

All bags in this category are banned. These are bags commonly known as “Juala” that are used as secondary packages for items in shops, markets etc. In this category of banned bags, there are NO EXEMPTIONS

Category 2: Flat bags

Flat bags have numerous uses and exemptions in this category differ. For instance those flat bags used for carrying items outside industrial setting such as to carry items from groceries are banned.

However, in this category EXEMPTION is extended for bags used for industrial primary packaging where the product is in direct contact with the plastic and is done at the source. Examples of this primary packaging include bread, salt, sugar, sausages and other foodstuff. Other exemptions include polythene bags used in packaging of fish products and agricultural produce. Polythene bags used for the tree nursery tubes are also exempted.

Exemptions under this category are provided subject to the following conditions:
i. Extended Producer/User Responsibility and/or effective Take Back Schemes – the manufacturer or user of the product must ensure that a plan is in place to mop up the waste generated.
ii. Legibly and permanently labelled bags to indicate the name of the industry manufacturing the product, the end-user and physical addresses for ease of monitoring, traceability and therefore ease of enforcement intervention.
iii. Keeping of inventory/record with the aim of implementing the take back scheme.

Category 3: Flat bags used as Garbage and hazardous (e.g. medical waste, chemicals etc.) waste liners
i. Hazardous waste liners are exempted so long as they are legibly and permanently labelled (as indicated in 2 ii above) and color-coded and are incinerated together with the waste.

ii. Garbage Liners are also exempted on condition that they are clearly labelled (as indicated in 2 ii above) and have demonstrated effective and efficient Extended Producer/User Responsibility and/or effective Take Back Schemes. The liners will NOT be dumped together with the waste but will be emptied and reused or recycled by the licensed waste collector and transporter (the end user).

Category 4: Duty Free shop bags
The ban applies to the use, manufacture and importation of the banned plastics within Kenya. Bags issued at Duty free shops at airports are exempted due to ICAO and IATA Rules and Regulations. However, any traveller coming into Kenya with duty free bags shall be required to leave the same at the point of entry.

Credit: NEMA-Kenya
For more updates, visit http://www.nema.go.ke

Use of a branded truck to get awareness messages closer to the people

Mazingira Safi

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In November 2015, the world community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which are to be implemented by all stakeholders including government, civil society, private sector, media, development partners and learning institutions. These players are expected to innovatively address the 17 goals and 169 targets to make our world more peaceful and livable. Goal 4 requires stakeholders to Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4.7 reiterates that by 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Environmental challenges are a major concern for all humanity. In this regard, everybody is a learner who require to be educated to enable…

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Kenya is ready with alternatives to polythene carrier bags

On 28th February 2017, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural resources issued the Gazette notice No. 2356, banning the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. The Cabinet Secretary exercised powers conferred under section 3 and 86 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA Cap 387). The gazette notice notified the public that this ban will take effect from 6th month from the date of the notice, that is from 28th August 2017 .

This ban on plastic bags has left many wondering what to do since plastic bags have been an intrinsic part of our day-to-day life, despite its adverse effects on the environment. The public is not aware on the alternatives that can be used when the plastic bags are withdrawn from use. But now that the ban is in force, the public is left with no option other than to choose appropriate alternatives to the polythene bag.

Getting an alternative for the polythene bag is not difficult. In our archives of indigenous practices when the polythene bag had not been invented, we used bags made from diverse materials to carry our goods. I wish to remind you of some of the alternatives to the polythene bag which you could consider as suitable options.

Canvas bags

Canvas is usually made of cotton or linen. Canvas is a durable plain-woven fabric used for making many items for which sturdiness is required. Items made from Canvas include sails, tents, marquees, backpacks and other items.

It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface whereby they stretch it across a wooden frame. Being easy to write on makes canvas a prefered option for those interested in advertising different products and services. Canvas bags carrying advertisements are normally given out for free by corporates and if this is not checked, it may lead to many of these durable bags being disposed to the environment. Hence it would be a good idea to sell the Canvas bags for a small fee to ensure that people do not have excess of them at their disposal.

Canvas fabric is popular in making bags that are durable. These bags can be of different varieties, shapes and sizes. Canvas fabric is thicker than plastic bags. It is easier for an individual to buy the fabric and
stitch personal customized canvas bags at home. Customization could be in regard to shape, size, colours and accessories.

With the ban in place, it is therefore possible to create hundreds and thousands of jobs from local tailors making canvas bags for the people. Being more durable than polythene bags implies that people will reuse the bags and hence reduce negative impacts on the environment.

Denim bags

Denim is a sturdy cotton used to make durable clothing for use in harsh environments such as mining and surveying. This clothing is popularly refereed to as “Jeans”. Our old and worn out jeans can be reused by making bags that are tear-resistant and extremely durable. Hence use of denim bags is another creative way to go green. Denim is appropriate since it stretches, flows and is easy to stitch, handle and clean.

With the plastic bag ban in place denim bags present another employment stream as the people have these old tear resistant clothes. Local tailors who are innovative will come in handy to develop all manner of Denim bags for use by Kenyans. The jobs created will be many and spread throughout the country.

Jute bags

Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. Kenyan sisal plants have similar features and played a major economic role before the emergence of polythene bags. Jute bags are user friendly and can carry items to our place of work, to the market, shopping malls, grocery shop or even the beach. Communities have unique intricate weaving patterns and dyes which make these bags an admirable piece of art.

With the polythene bags ban in place, we expect that the sisal industry will be revamped. The demand for these fibres will lead to increased employment in sisal factories such as Vipingo in Kilifi. Areas that traditionally farmed the sisal plant may start farming of the same.

Its also expected that the popular Kenyan Kiondo will be revived. The women who have a weaving talent will have a new employment front to engage in. Hundreds of women groups throughout the country will be engaged in weaving Kiondo.

Paper bags

A paper bag is made out of paper. Paper bags are commonly used as shopping bags. They are eco-friendly, recyclable, foldable and easy to store. Although paper bags are not as strong as canvas or jute bags, they make an excellent alternative to plastic bags.

Paper bags are made from trees or other plants such as water hyacinth. Soft wood trees are used and are mainly grown in plantations. Those who justify the use of polythene bags argue against cutting of trees to make paper bags, which may increase carbon emissions by removing plants that absorb carbon dioxide gas.

Implementation of the recent polythene ban is likely to create jobs in those industries involved in paper manufacturing such as Pan-Paper Mills in Western Kenya. Farmers may also opt to grow the soft wood used for making paper and this may provide additional livelihood.

Water hyacinth bags

Water hyacinth contains fibre that is used to make diverse items including bags. Innovative artisans make the bags in various hues and styles, sometimes even with leather additions.

Kenya has over 10,000 hectares of water hyacinth in Lake Victoria. Water hyacinth has also invaded other wetlands. Hence Kenya has substantial supply of water hyacinth which could be used to make bags as alternatives for the polythene bags.

With the implementation of the polythene bag, we expect increased demand for the hyacinth bags. This will create jobs for the youth and women groups in different parts of the country. There are currently many individuals and groups involved in making water hyacinth bags especially around Lake Victoria and we expect them to have booming business.

Crochet bags

Crochet is a process of creating fabric by interlocking loops of thread, or strands of other materials using a crochet hook.

Crocheting is a skill that many Kenyans have mastered. Crochet bags are easy to make and cheap. All that the people need is some wool and a crochet needle. Hence many Kenyans can creatively make their own bag. This creativity has not been tapped since presence of polythene bags have reduced the demand for the crochet bags.

Implementation of the polythene bag ban will rekindle this innovative industry and many people of all ages will get livelihood opportunities.

Conclusion

The discussion above clearly demonstrate that Kenya has ready alternatives for the polythene bags that have been banned. These alternatives make use of the indigenous knowledge and practices resident in the Kenyan people.

The players in the plastic sector have argued that implementation of the polythene bags ban will lead to loss of jobs for Kenyans. However, one would wonder where these jobs are resident and how many people are involved. My opinion is that the jobs are resident in cities where the polythene manufacturers operate and involve very few people. It is evident from the discussion on the alternatives above that there will be more job opportunities created which will be spread to Kenyans of all ages throughout the country. Hence going for the alternatives to polythene bags is a better option for Kenya in terms of job opportunities and benefits to the environment.

Kenya free of polythene bags is possible

The world produces about five trillion plastic bags every year. Globally, every second 160, 000 plastic bags are used. In Kenya we use 24 million of these otherwise called carry-home bags every month. Of all the plastic the world consumes, only one to three percent of it is recycled. Plastic is here to stay; it is not bio-degradable. It takes around 700 years for the material to start breaking up, and even then it does not decompose or degrade to be absorbed by nature; it photo-grades(breaks up into little toxic bits of itself)
Plastic bags came into being in the 1960s and were introduced in the American supermarkets in the 70s with the rest of the world taking cue there on. The bags are convenient to use; they are light, cheap to manufacture and resistant to degradation. Nevertheless, these same properties have contributed to the proliferation of the bags in the environment posing a big challenge to solid waste management. But are we better off without these carriers?
A 2005 research by NEMA revealed that there were then 176 plastic manufacturing companies in Kenya worth Ksh. 88 billion and providing 60,000 jobs. The plastic products—most of which are plastic bags—churned out for our use by this industry end up permanently in the environment; they do not decompose. One major resultant effect of the bags’ nature is clogging of drainage systems: This causes flooding and formation of puddles that provide bleeding grounds for mosquitoes and consequently malaria—that according to the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation kills 30,000 people annually. When ingested by animals, plastic bags cause their eventual death; burning the bags releases toxic fumes that have been associated with various types of cancer while if thrown away—which is a common practice—the bags litter our landscape.
We need to check the manufacture and usage of plastic bags.
To echo the late Professor Wangari Maathai, “The plastic bags we have in Kenya are so flimsy that millions of them only get used once before being thrown away, you see them in the trees, in the hedges and on the ground…” Kenya banned the manufacture, import and use of polythene carrier bags on 28th February 2017 in order to protect the environment.
The ban is a follow-up of extensive consultations with the stakeholders in the plastic sector. Earlier in 2007, a ban was imposed to check plastics below 30 microns.
The onus to reduce—if not eradicate—use of plastic bags in our country is on all of us. The world is going green and the route there starts at eliminating the substances that pollute our environment-plastic bags being among the most obnoxious. At the individual level, we need to reduce the dependence on these bags to “carry stuff” home. We should reuse the ones we already have when we go shopping and seek environment-friendly carriers such as cotton cloth bags, paper bags, canvas bags, sisal bags, papyrus bags and buyers/shoppers own shopping bags.
……
The penalty for breach of this ban is stipulated under Section 144 of the Environmental Management and Cordination Act Cap 387, which is imprisonment for a term of not less than one (1) year but not more than four (4) years or a fine of not less than 2 Million but not more than 4 Million or to both such fine and imprisonment.

What next for climate change?

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Climate change is a major challenge in our time. Debate on this challenge has attracted international attention and high level Conference of Parties (COP) meetings have been held annually. This international political response to climate change began in 1992 when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted. UNFCCC serves as the legal framework binding countries to take action to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid harmful anthropogenic interference with the climate system. UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994 and has been embraced by 197 parties.

To facilitate realization of UNFCCC, parties also developed the Kyoto Protocol which was adopted in December 1997, during COP 3 held in Kyoto, Japan. This protocol to the UNFCCC committed industrialized countries and countries in transition to a market economy to achieve emissions reduction targets. These countries, also referred to as Annex I parties under the UNFCCC, agreed to reduce their overall emissions of six green house gases (GHGs) by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in 2008-2012 (the first commitment period). However, specific targets varied from country to country. The Kyoto Protocol became operational in on 16 February 2005 and has been embraced by 192 parties. However, implementation of Kyoto protocol have faced some challenges since 2012 as many countries did not want to continue with legally binding commitments. Hence intense political negotiations have been going on with each country presenting her suited model interventions for addressing climate change, and these have been debated at length and some consensus framework has been been reached.

In December 2015, at COP 21 in Paris, France, parties agreed to the Paris Agreement that requires countries to assess their emissions and how to reduce them and to document the same as “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs). The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 and has been ratified by over 110 parties out of the 193 signatories as of 6 November 2016. The Paris Agreement demands that countries make their targets in NDCs ambitious and commit themselves to implement their interventions progressively over time. Countries are expected to report their contributions every five years and to register this with the UNFCCC Secretariat. The aggregate progress on mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation will be reviewed every five years in a global stocktake.

It must however be noted that the targets set in NDCs are not legally binding or obligatory. There is also no enforcement mechanism in place. Implementation of NDCs can hence be considered as more voluntary and the enforcement mechanism for those who do not comply as expected could be that of “name and shame” or “name and encourage”. There are no legally binding consequences if countries fail to meet their NDC commitments. No wonder we have seen many countries easily signing into the Paris Agreement as it doesn’t present major risks to the country in case of non-compliance. This arrangement is able to rope in all countries unlike the Kyoto Protocol that only demanded emission reductions from Annex 1 countries. Hence we expect that countries will engage in friendly discussions encouraging each other to cooperate for success of the Paris Agreement. However, the political statements so far have strongly indicated that countries are committed to the Paris Agreement and ensuring that global temperature rise does not exceed 1.5 degrees centigrade.

The world climate change negotiators and leaders have been meeting in Marrakesh Morocco for COP 22 between 7th – 18th November 2016. Being the first COP after coming into force of the Paris Agreement, this meeting is very significant as it sets pace on how to deal with climate change utilizing non-legally binding instruments. The uniqueness of the Paris Agreement is that it applies a “bottom up” approach and the total contributions from all countries will be assessed in 2023 to provide the global scenario of GHG reductions upon which further decisions will be made for inclusion in the 2nd NDC committments.

At the Marrakesh COP 22 meeting, leaders have stressed the need for enhanced investment in forestry, land use, land management, water management, agriculture, food security, oceans, greening of cities, and clean energy among others. All leaders including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon reiterated the need for enhanced funding to developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It is hence evident that the Paris Agreement is slowly getting contextualized within national and local levels. It is anticipated that the levels of GHGs will progressively reduce, and this will mark as an assurance that the global community could address any challenge if they all commit to individual contributions. Our success will be a pillar of hope for a safer planet and sustainability of present and future generations.

Standard Gauge Railway comes with a package of goodies

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The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) has been under construction for quite some time now in Kenya. We are told that laying of the rail from Mombasa to Nairobi is over 80% complete. Surely, if you take a ride to Mombasa by road, you will see the enthusiasm that this project exudes. There is a lot of excavations and land filling that is going on, indicating that this is a huge investment.

The rail line is fast approaching Nairobi having passed through various counties, towns and urban centers all the way from Mombasa. Looking at the progress, it is felt that the railway will bring various transformations to the people living around the designed area where the railway lays.
Without any doubt, the SGR has already created numerous employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labour. Having it pass through various towns towards Nairobi and past, the residents living in these areas are optimistic that there will be job opportunities created for them. As much as the project requires high expertise in skilled labour, the unskilled labour is required to help in manual operations as casual workers. Through employment, it is evident that those involved will improve their living standards from the income gained, thus contributing to the overall GDP of the country. As long-term results, it is expected that other job opportunities will emerge due to operationalization of the project especially at the train terminals.

As the railway finds its way towards Nairobi, there has been a great boost in businesses. These include small-scale businesses like food vendors (vibanda), which are frequented with casual labourers constructing the rail. Other businesses like guesthouses, entertainment joints and eating places have already benefitted from the construction workers.

With various terminals being erected at different towns, more businesses will emerge as there will be more people in these areas especially the passengers. It is possible that old towns and centres will be revived by the availability of the railway due to enhanced accessibility. All these result to an economic boost and better living standards to the locals.

The SGR is expected to convey the fastest moving trains in the country. Thus we expect more goods to be transported with ease and reliability. Due to its huge capacity, the SGR will provide cheaper and faster means of transport. Hence most perishable goods such as sukuma wiki from Kimende and Wangige areas in Central Kenya will reach Kongowea market in Mombasa on time and in good condition.

Other than just goods, the project will ease transportation considering its fast speed. Hence it will be tempting to opt for a spectacular ride from Nairobi to Mombasa taking lesser time onboard the train compared to the road transport means that we are using at the moment.

All of us agree how irritating it is spending better part of our days on our roads due to traffic congestions. The SGR comes as a solution to the traffic jams, giving alternative means of transport hence we ultimately expect a reduction in traffic congestion experienced on our roads leading to major towns. The heavy commercial vehicles carrying tonnes and tonnes of goods flock our highways with the notorious one being Mombasa-Nairobi-Nakuru highway that is often at a standstill due to more lorries using the road. The train wagons are expected to carry more goods thus reducing congestion as well as helping maintain the state of our roads.

With the high rising numbers of accidents occurring in the country, which in most cases are fatal leading to an alarming number of people losing lives or being left seriously injured, we all hope that SGR provides a solution. As we know, most accidents are caused due to fatigued drivers who drive for long hours and distances with no rest. Careless driving and other factors have caused many accidents especially during festive seasons as the drivers are on haste to do more trips. We expect that the SGR will knock most trucks from our roads and hence reduce the risk of accidents by fatigued drivers. Trains are known to rarely cause accidents hence the SGR will come in handy in ensuring safety for those who could have used road transport. In this regard, the train may be a best bet mode of transport for families going for Christmas holidays.

All said and done the SGR is expected to bring massive development in towns, centres and rural areas, as it will open up new business dynamics and markets for farm produce. The individuals constructing the rail and anyone offering any services to them are already benefitting from SGR project.

A TRAIN RIDE THROUGH THE NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK

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How does it feel riding in the fastest train in Kenya from Mombasa to Nairobi across various counties? Most people would agree it’s an experience of their life time. Its especially more memorable while passing through those raised sections of the rail bridges. Watching the ground from above gives a unique bird’s eye view which is not common.

There is this proposal that the Standard Gauge railway would pass through Nairobi National Park. Proposals being fielded are that the rail bridge will be raised up the sky and be supported by high pillars. Being high up in a national park could be the most memorable part of a train ride as it may give travelers a chance to watch wildlife, lower in the plains.

Speaking about the wildlife, the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is expected to be complete by June 2017. If the proposal that has been submitted to NEMA is approved, the proposed 8.85Km SGR will be located within Nairobi National Park which is the first national park in Kenya and indeed in East African region covering an area of 117Km2. Did you know that it is one of the most unique protected areas in the world due to its location, which is about 7 Km from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya? The park receives more than 100,000 visitors annually earning the country visitation revenue amounting to approximately USD 0.6 million per year.

The park fears for major challenges that may come in the future due to its closeness to the rapidly expanding city which may threaten to undermine the importance of the park. The south and east part of the park is highly infested by settlements and industrial development that are blamed for curtailing the seasonal movement of migrating wild animals across its unfenced southern boundary. In addition, the unique ecosystem is threatened by development projects. You are all familiar with the just concluded controversy regarding the construction of the Nairobi Southern bypass which was blamed for encroaching the northern boundary. With that not enough, the new SGR is hereby scheduled to take the railway through the heart of the same Nairobi National Park.

Going back to the SGR ride its crucial that we analyze why the traveler considers this ride as the most memorable. Of course the train speeds are amazingly fast. Taking about 4 hours from Nairobi to Mombasa is quite a saving considering that we spend about 8 hours while using the road and avoiding the speed cameras. With this speed I do not think travelers will be able to enjoy seeing the wildlife in the park.

I also recall there is a proposal that noise deflectors will be placed along the bridge to reduce noise of the trains as they move along which may scare the animals. If the noise deflectors are installed, I wonder whether they will be transparent enough to allow wildlife watching while traveling in the train. However, considering that this was not your primary objective, you will get satisfied by being up there in the sky and reflecting how wild animals are enjoying themselves below the rail is quite an experience.

I am sure as you enjoy your ride up there on the raised bridge, you’ll not fail to reflect on some of the arguments that were put forward by diverse stakeholders regarding that project. For instance from an economic perspective, there are arguments about benefits of the SGR such as increased trade between upcountry and the coast as well as accessing export markets faster and easily. This is especially notable for the perishable goods. Increased trade also creates employment to many people. What about the traffic snarl-ups experienced on Mombasa Road whenever an incident occurs on the road and travelers spend days stuck in the jam? What about the damage to our roads by overloaded trucks? Everyone would be happy that all these negative experiences of our travel to Mombasa will be a thing of the past. I am sure you will not fail to consider yourself as one of the beneficiaries of this broad economic benefit brought by SGR.

But I am sure there will also be discussions about concerns raised by conservationists. This group would have preferred that the SGR uses another route and not the national park. Their arguments liken the SGR as “someone coming to your residence place and destroying your shelter and what you call a home”. They argue that the preparation of the ground for laying the railway will require vegetation clearing and cut down of trees of which act as habitat for diverse wildlife. But did you know that passing through other routes would cost an extra USD 12.34 million?

The conservationists have also argued that the existing area of the park will be reduced or lost and the animals may be congested in the remaining park area. Of course you will need answers as to whether this interference with the park and existing wildlife affect the tourism activities and therefore giving a loss in the income generated from the park.

I am sure also that as you discuss all this, you will not fail to reflect on the role played by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) through her Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. You will wonder whether all the impacts were identified and documented and whether the community members living around the area of project were adequately involved. You will also wonder whether the negative effects identified were adequately mitigated to prevent adverse effects or minimize the current effects. You will be interested to get assurance whether NEMA’s decision managed to preserve the precious wildlife asset for current and future generations, as well as ensure sustained economic benefits from the SGR project.With this discussion, you will definitely not fail to develop a perception about NEMA and its role in this project.

Hence a train ride above Nairobi National park will be a unique experience where you feel in the sky, scramble for strategic positions next to the window to see the wildlife, and evaluate the wisdom of current day decision makers. I am sure the travelers will enjoy very lively discussions.

Used cooking oil can land hotels into trouble

chips

Most people enjoy deep fried bacon, fries and chicken. Most hotels use cooking oil to deep fry food. It is notable that the cooking oil used in hotels to fry these delicacies is a lot. The cooking oil is boiled in a pot and items to be fried dipped in, and once ready removed for serving. The oil can be used severally but when it reaches end of life, it has to be changed.

Have you ever thought of where hotels take the cooking oil no longer in use? It has been noted that most hotels dispose their expired cooking oils to their grey water disposal systems, which finally get into the sewerage system. Hence where they wash the dishes is the same place they dispose the used oil and it flows the same way as domestic water used to clean utensils. Some hotels not connected to the sewer system, dispose the used cooking oil to the environment. So it’s not unusual to find oil on the ground or in our water bodies such as rivers.

Disposing off the waste cooking oil in the environment has adverse environmental impacts. How do you feel when you dip your hand in oil? The oil forms a sticky coating on your skin. Definitely, you have to wash your hands with soap to get the oil out of your skin. What if the same oil floods the body of animals or plants or even on the soil? The oil would form a coat on plants and animals thus interfering with their normal operations. If this happens to birds, they cannot use their feathers freely and hence interfere with their flight. If it happens to aquatic organisms, they suffocate due to lack of oxygen. Our sewerage ponds which depend on aerobic micro-organisms to degrade organic matter are at high risk of being rendered worthless because of suffocation by oil floating on its surface. The cooking oil flooded in the environment destroys food supplies, affects breeding of animals and destroys habitats thus disrupting the ecological system.

Did you know used cooking oil could be recycled? Did you know that we have companies that collect waste cooking oil and recycle? The used cooking oil can be used to make soap (http://www.mediamaxnetwork.co.ke/features/268501/frying-pan-bathroom/) or biofuels used as fuel for locomotives, for power generation and heating. Biofuels made from recycled cooking oil produce less green house gases as compared to other conventional fuels. The biofuels also do not produce carbon monoxide.

Recycling of used cooking oil pays dividends to many people and institutions. The hotels get a form of revenue when they sell used oil to recyclers. Recycling of cooking oil also ensures that less used oil is being disposed of in drains, which can clog sewage lines and cause environmental degradation.

Disposing used cooking oil to the environment is an offense under the Environmetal Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) Cap 387 and the associated water quality regulations (2006). What are hotel owners expected to do if they are to be regarded as compliant to the EMCA Cap 387. The hotels are expected to procure services of a waste handler licensed by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to dispose their waste cooking oil. You can consult NEMA Kenya for a list of these licensed waste handlers.

On each collection of your waste cooking oil, a tracking document should be filled out and copies held by both parties and these should be produced to a NEMA Inspector on request. The tracking document contains information on company details of where the waste is being transferred to; the type of waste being transferred; details of who the waste is being transferred from; date when transfer is done; signatures from both parties.

It is an offence for a hotel not to be in possession of these tracking documents as this would suggest that they discharge used cooking oil into the environment. EMCA Cap 387 provides that those found guilty for not keeping the tracking records risk being imprisoned for not less than one year but not more than four years, or a fine of not less than two million shillings but not more than four million shillings, or both such fine and imprisonment.

If you own a hotel, you have to prove that you dispose your used cooking oil responsibly. Give your used oil to a NEMA licensed waste handler and keep all the tracking documents safely to give to a NEMA Inspector when he/she comes around. This way you can keep away from trouble. Lets all work together towards a clean and healthy environment.

Cigarette butts recycling

tray-waste

How many times have you spotted cigarette butts while walking around or when relaxing in a public area? You agree, more often than not. Did you know that in 2015, over 1.1 billion people smoked tobacco of which more males contributed to this figure than females? According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, although the consumption rate is declining worldwide, the prevalence of tobacco smoking appears to be increasing in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and the African Regions.

In Kenya, the prevailing number of male smokers dominates over the females. According to WHO, over 8 billion sticks of cigarettes are smoked in Kenya. This contributes to the alarming number of cigarette butts often seen discarded all over and dotting the sidewalks we use. In this regard, cigarette butts could be regarded as a key type of solid waste littering our environment.

If you analyze a cigarette keenly, you will realize that it is made up of several components. For instance there is the outer thin paper, which holds a filter (for some cigarettes) and the tobacco that is the key consumable. Cigarettes are made from partly leaf tobacco as the raw material, which is consumed through smoking. Towards the end of the stick, a cigarette filter is placed to enhance consumption.

These filters are non consumable hence are discarded as the cigarette butts. They contain cellulose acetate, which is a high grade plastic. Due to this ‘plastic’ nature of the filters they are less flammable and cannot be burnt along while smoking, hence the smokers dispose them.

With the advancement in new technology development globally, it has been discovered that cigarette butts can be recycled. The cellulose acetate making the cigarette filter is used in making of some plastic products like sunglasses, magnetic tapes and clothes. Hence cigarette butts provide an income generating opportunity whereby if the butts are collected, they could be sold to recyclers. This will help curb the waste increase menace that makes our environment an eyesore especially in developing countries bearing in mind that we are the huge consumers of cigarettes.

The smokers have a challenge of considering the cigarette butts as tiny items and easily throw them away not knowing that this is done by many people leading to littering. Their small size makes collection of the cigarette butts difficult and dirty through comingling with other waste and dust. To enable recycling of cigarette butts, waste bins should be placed at strategic and ‘hotspot’ areas to ease the collection of these filters for industries that may be interested with the butts as their raw materials.

The South Africa’s plastic pipe industry uses the cigarette butts as recycled raw material and hence is at the forefront in trying to find a solution to the rising problem of discarded cigarette butts along their beaches. Kenya also has plastic industries, which are willing to buy the cigarette butts for recycling. Hence these industries could play a pivotal role in taking up this challenge to help the country through recycling of these filters, which can be raw materials for their product manufacturing.

We all know that cigarettes are one of the highly taxed items in Kenya. Taxation on the tobacco products aims at discouraging use of cigarettes to prevent health related ailments such as respiratory diseases and cancer. But it’s also important that we consider disposal of cigarette butts, which makes the environment dirty. Hence, it’s a high time that the government invests some of the money collected through taxation into activities that aid in collecting the cigarette butts to ensure that they do not pollute our environment.

In the absence of government funding of recycling of the cigarette butts, the members of the public should invest in initiatives that can help in collection of the waste and recycling the same. For instance, we need the smokers to ensure that they only dump the cigarette butts in the right bins to help in easier collection for recycling. We should not throw butts anywhere else. Lets also support any community or youth led initiatives to collect the butts and selling them to recyclers.

For those who do not know where to sell your cigarette butts, please consult the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA-Kenya) for further guidance on recyclers who could receive the butts.
References
WHO global report on trends in tobacco smoking 2000- 2025

Written collaboratively with Diana

Green house gases and climate change

air pollution

A greenhouse gas (GHG) is any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that has the capability to absorb infrared radiation, hence trap it leading to an increase in heat in the atmosphere. Trapping heat in the atmosphere has a green house effect, and hence gases able to do this are regarded as greenhouse gases, and this phenomena ultimately leads to global warming

Greenhouse gases are categorized into two groups namely direct and indirect GHGs

Direct GHGs include

1. Carbon dioxide (CO2)
2. Methane (CH4)
3. Nitrous oxide (N2O)
4. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
5. Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
6. Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
7. Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

The GHG making the greatest contribution to climate change is carbon dioxide and that is why it is the main focus in climate change initiatives. Methane and nitrous oxide contribute to a lesser extent at about 10%.

HFCs, PFCs, SF6 and NF3 are collectively have high Global Warming potential but their contribution to climate change is very small at less than 5%.

ghg-gases

Direct GHG, are regarded as ‘emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by an organization’. Their sources include

1. Stationary combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil etc. for heating or other
domestic and industrial applications
2. Mobile combustion of fossil fuels (e.g. gasoline, diesel) used in mobile transportation such as
locomotives
3. Process emissions released during the manufacturing process within the industry sectors (e.g.
cement, iron and steel, ammonia)
4. Fugitive Emissions which refers to unintentional release of GHG from sources including
refrigeration, and natural gas distribution

Institutions differ in terms of relevance and hence levels of contribution to pollution from the 4 sources of GHG emissions.For instance, majority of organizations score highly on stationary and mobile combustion sources.

Indirect GHG emissions emanate as a consequence of the activities of the organization that reports on its emissions. Their sources could be traced to facilities or practices owned or controlled by another entity. Indirect GHGs emanate from operations of an organization but are not directly owned or controlled by the organization. For instance, indirect GHGs emanating from the energy sector include those ‘emissions emanating from consumption of purchased electricity, steam, or other sources of energy not generated from the organization’.

Other sources of indirect GHG sources include :
• employee business travel
• transportation of products, materials, and waste
• outsourced activities, contract manufacturing, and franchises
• emissions from waste generated by the institution when the point of GHG emissions occurs at sources or sites that are owned or controlled by another company, e.g. methane emissions from landfilled waste
• emissions from the use and end-of-life phases of products and services produced by the institution
• employees commuting to and from work
• dealing with imported materials

Indirect GHGs form the bulk of emissions from most organizations and constitute their largest carbon footprint

Other indirect Greenhouse gases includes
1. Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
2. Carbon monoxide (CO)
3. Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC)
4. Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

References

http://www.icomplisustainability.com/index.php/ask-the-expert/ghg-management/item/63-what-are-the-differences-between-scope-1-2-and-3-greenhouse-gas-emissions/63-what-are-the-differences-between-scope-1-2-and-3-greenhouse-gas-emissions

http://indiaghgp.org/content/what-difference-between-direct-and-indirect-emissions

https://www.carbontrust.com/news/2011/11/indirect-carbon-emissions-and-why-they-matter/

Regulating air pollution emissions into the environment

air pollution

Kenyans are exposed to the risk of air pollution from stationery and mobile sources. In 2015, the Government of Kenya gazetted the Air Quality Regulations which are aimed at protecting the citizens from exposure to air pollution. The regulations gives the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) a major role in regulating air pollution. These roles include the following

1. Receive applications for emission licenses from all institutions and equipment releasing gaseous emissions
2. Consult lead agencies and other organizations before making decisions on issuance of emission licenses
3. Issue emission licenses
4. Cancel emission licenses
5. May establish additional procedures for the application and grant of any license
6. Impose such conditions as NEMA may deem appropriate.
7. Maintain a register of all emission licenses issued under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) Cap 387
8. Allow the members of the public to inspect the emission license register after payment of prescribed fee

These roles make NEMA a critical institution in air quality management. NEMA has all the powers to ensure that no pollution occurs in Kenya. Hence if you are an air polluter, you are on notice, NEMA inspectors are out there and will catch up with you.

Reference

Government of Kenya (2015) Environmental Management and Coordination Act Cap 387. Government Printers, Nairobi

Pollution exacerbates influenza

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A few days ago, the Kenyan media reported an outbreak of influenza in Nakuru county that led to deaths of over 40 children. This is a major epidemic and there were fears that the menace could spread to other parts of the country. There were reports that the government planned a major vaccination exercise to prevent further spread of the disease.
Many Kenyans are not familiar with Influenza flu and if you check the google trends, the terminology has attracted a lot of attention. What exactly is influenza flu? How is the disease spread? Does pollution play a role in spread of the disease? Considering polluted and less polluted environments, where are we likely to get more disease prevalence? These are some of the questions that beg answers to assure Kenyan people that they are safe from this epidemic.
Influenza is a contagious flu or respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and the lungs. The disease can be mild, severe and at times may cause death. Some of its symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, running nose, muscle or body aches, headache, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea especially in children.
Studies show that influenza spreads through droplets released when people cough, sneeze or talk. Any contact with these droplets through inhaling them, touching them and then touching the mouth and nose spreads the disease.
Studies have also shown that air pollution by particulate matter suspended in the air such as smoke and dust exercerbates the problem by serving as carriers of the influenza virus. When one sneezes in a dusty environment without covering the mouth and nose, millions of viruses are released and attach on the surface of the suspended air particulate matter. The particulate matter act as ‘condensation nuclei’ to which the virus droplets attach. These virus laden particles can remain airborne for a long time and can get dispersed by wind over a wide area. Hence disease spread could be exacerbated by presence of air pollutants as compared to just sneezing within non-polluted areas.
Hence if one is to compare possibility of disease prevalence in an urban area and a rural set up, it is evident that urban areas could be adversely affected. Urban areas have a lot of particulate matter arising from diesel exhaust and normal dust disturbed all the time by the mobile vehicles. Indeed studies have shown a relationship between hospital admissions to influenza with increase in levels of particulate matter.
Another challenge with pollution is that when they attach to sensitive body surfaces such as nasal cavity, they cause irritation and inflammation. This is normally dismissed as allergy. The human body cells when in contact with pollutants and viruses produce chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are proteins released by the body’s immune system causing inflammation and release of fluids. That is why people when exposed to air pollution normally sneeze and produces mucus from their noses causing them to blow their noses regularly. Hence a person suffering from influenza and living in a place experiencing air pollution suffers double tragedy whereby his/her body cells get enhanced irritation and inflammation.
In Kenya, most areas experience some level of air pollution be it in form of dust or smoke. Since a mild influenza epidemic has been reported in Nakuru, one cannot be certain that you will not contract the virus through suspended particles in the air. Hence its crucial to understand that likelihood of getting the virus is substantial even though you have not been in contact with an infected patient.
So, what can we do to remain safe from influenza virus? We are fortunate that our scientists have successfully developed an Influenza vaccine. It’s advisable that everybody gets an annual jab of this vaccine. Right now it’s advisable that we support the government vaccination initiative regarding influenza.
Additionally it is also advisable to take preventive action to stop the spread of germs. This could be done by making sure that we do not cough and sneeze carelessly without covering our nose and mouth. This would prevent releasing jets of viruses into the atmosphere to attach to the particulate matter and get dispersed other people. Minimize the infection to yourself. We could also go a step further, though cumbersome, and use nose masks to filter the particulate matter getting into our noses.
All of us have a role to play to ensure that further spread of influenza is curbed. Make sure you do not contribute to infection of your neighbor by sneezing responsibly. Lets also contribute as government or individuals to ensure that pollution levels are reduced. Make sure our roads are not dusty. Vehicles should ensure that their pollution levels are as prescribed in the Environmental Management and Coordination Act -Air Quality regulations 2014.

Is Kenya safe from Chernobyl type of disasters?

Chernobyl

On 26th April 1986, a major accident occurred in Chernobyl and is estimated to have killed about 30,000 people through radiation related health complications (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/nuclear/nomorechernobyls/what-happened-in-chernobyl/) . Everything looked fine until a major explosion occurred that released huge levels of emission which was hard to contain for 10 days. Imagine a situation where scientists are unable to handle an incident for 240 hours leaving humanity to the mercy of the unknown.

What has happened since then globally? Have we had a reduction in nuclear plants? Have we become more careful? Are there other developments that are happening globally outside the realm of nuclear energy activities that could subject our people to health and life risks?

Explosions that could release pollutants to the atmosphere and to people can occur from diverse economic activities. There are chemical processing industries scattered all over the country, manufacturing many crucial products needed for crop and animal health such as fertilizers, drugs, industrial chemicals. Certainly we cannot condemn the contribution of these establishments to socio-economic development of our country. What we need to consider is safety at local and regional level.
A quick look at Kenyan situation regarding industrial safety gives us some reassurances. The government has put in place several initiatives to ensure safety of people to avoid Chernobyl type of accidents.

New establishments such as factories are expected to undertake environmental impact assessments (EIA). The EIA reports present a risk assessment of the entire infrastructural development, operations and decommissioning after end of life of the factory. Besides acquiring the EIA license, these facilities are expected to undertake an Environmental Audit every year to show levels of compliance to EIA license. In addition, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) inspectors visit these facilities at least once every year to confirm compliance to the EIA license conditions.

The facilities are also expected to demonstrate proper waste handling. For solid waste, they should show evidence of operating a licensed waste facility or procurement of a competent NEMA licensed waste handler. The same applies for the liquid waste.

Hence, the key question begging for an answer “Is Kenya safe from Chernobyl type of explosions?” As an expert, I can say yes. The safeguards are in place. However any safeguards are as good as the people implementing them. Hence there is need for those facilities under the regulations cited above to ensure that they remain compliant to their environmental license commitments.

We have seen media reports that Kenya is determined to harness nuclear energy to power our economic development. The Chernobyl disaster is still fresh in peoples mind and many Kenyans are expected to express reservations when the project is finally proposed. However, the mechanisms in place plus others that may be developed on needs basis should ensure our country is safe.

Business opportunities in Electronic waste

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All of us use different electronic devises which after some time reach their end of life. This implies that everyone is an e-waste generator. Where do you take your electronic devise when it reaches its end of life? In my earlier article I explained that failure to dispose e-waste properly could lead to environmental pollution and consequently many health hazards.

If you are keen, you will discover that there is a lot of e-waste thrown carelessly in our environment. E-waste recycling provides many business and entrepreneurial opportunities. E-waste recycling results in recovery of many precious elements that could have otherwise been harmful to the environment. E-waste recycling is like engaging in mining of precious metals. The interesting aspect of this mining process is that it only involves a physical intervention and hence is cheap. The precious metals were refined and used to make the electronic devise and do not require further chemical processing during recycling. The precious elements just need physical separation from each other, and accumulating adequate quantities for sale to the industrialists. This could be very useful in creating jobs for our thousands of youth.

According to NEMA (2014, pg 12), some of the precious elements that could be extracted from e-waste includes the following:-

Tin – from solder, coatings on component leads.
Copper – from Copper wire, printed circuit board tracks, component leads.
Aluminium – from electronic goods including electrolytic capacitors.
Iron – from Steel chassis, cases, and fixings.
Germanium: from transistorized electronics (bipolar junction transistors).
Silicon – from glass, transistors, ICs, printed circuit boards.
Nickel – from Nickel-cadmium batteries.
Lithium – from Lithium-ion batteries.
Zinc – from Plated steel parts.
Gold – from connector plating in computer equipment

How much money is a kilogramme of each of these recovered elements? It is substantial and its recovery is crucial in fostering employment and livelihoods for Kenyans as well as ensuring a clean and healthy environment. Spend a day scanning your locality and establish how much e-waste is available.

If you are excited about the amounts of e-waste available, you may wish to establish a recycling facility to rake in these millions which are currently being wasted. I encourage you to exploit this opportunity. All what you need to do is:-
1. Visit NEMA for technical advice
2. Request NEMA for benchmarking attachments with other industry players
3. Establish a recycling facility.
4. Get a recycling license from NEMA.

Now you see, its easy to become an “urban mining tycoon”. Take that bold step.

Reference

National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) (2010) Guidelines for E-waste management in Kenya. NEMA, Nairobi

Precious blood

Before birth of Jesus, blood of livestock was used as remission for sins
Blood was poured every day, many livestock were slaughtered
After resurrection of Christ, it is His blood that washes our sins
The blood protects us
In early times, blood was pasted on doors of Israelites
The angel of death bypassed the homes of Israelites
While he killed the sons in Egyptian homes, since they lacked the blood

We are sealed with the blood of Christ
Unlike the Israelites who left the blood on their door posts when they left
We go with the blood of Christ wherever we go
It’s a permanent seal in us, alive all the time

Those in Christ give testimony on what God has done
They overcame by the blood of the lamb and the words of their testimony (Revelation 12:11)
God is able to guide and to protect
We claim protection of the blood of Christ
Devil fears the power of the blood of Christ
When Jesus died, he took the keys of hade and opened all doors
Now those in Christ are free indeed

For one to be secured by the blood, he must be washed by it
Walk in Godly ways, doing what He wants them to do
They give the right testimony, glorifying God in all they do

Why E-Waste Management is Ideal for a Safer and Healthier Environment

image

In this day and age, the Information Technology (IT) sector is developing exponentially. There is an increase in the production as well as the use of electronic devices. In my earlier article I explained the kind of gadgets we have that are sources of e-waste. As much as we all love our TVs, refrigerators, mobile devices and other electronics it is sad to say that these electronic devices finally end up being e-waste.

Not to scare you though, these electronics (e-waste) can be recycled, resold and reused. However, failure to doing so, the e-waste indeed does pose environmental threats especially if not disposed correctly.

I know many of the readers of this article may not be environmental scientists and may wonder what E-waste management is all about. E-waste management involves managing electronic waste by recycling, remodeling or reusing any electronic gadget without haphazard disposal thus spoiling the environment. In most cases, people store these products even after they are outdated and when they decide to let go, they throw it to the environment where they are collected and dumped in dumpsites. Some gadgets do not get into dumpsites and are disposed in our soils, forests, even in rivers.

E-waste is toxic and hazardous. Fact is, electronic gadgets that are disposed as wastes contain mercury, barium, beryllium, lead, chromium, selenium and cadmium among others. Sorry to say, but these materials have the potential to pollute our soil and water. Human beings exposure to these pollutants has diverse damaging effects as listed below.

1. Arsenic – ingested as dust or soluble substances. It causes various diseases of the skin, decrease nerve conduction velocity and can also cause lung cancer

2. Barium – metallic element used in sparkplugs, fluorescent lamps and vacuum tubes. It forms poisonous oxides when in contact with air. Exposure leads to brain damage, muscle weakness, damage to internal organs such as the heart, liver and spleen.

3. Beryllium – can be inhaled as dust, fume or mist. It affects the lungs. It can also cause a skin disease characterized by poor wound healing and wart-like bumps.

4. Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) such as Polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and Tetrabromobisphenol – A (TBBPA) are used in electronic and electrical appliances to make plastics and textiles more flame resistant. Combustion of BFRs at lower temperatures releases toxic emissions including dioxins which cause severe hormonal disorders.

5. Cadmium – ingested through respiration or taken up with food. Long term exposure leads to lung cancer, kidney damage, pulmonary emphysema and bone disease

6. CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) – these are used mainly in cooling units and insulation foam. When released into the atmosphere, they accumulate in the stratosphere and deplete the ozone layer causing increased incidence of skin cancer in humans and genetic damage in many organisms.

7. Chromium – Its compounds are irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure to chromium (VI) compounds can cause permanent eye injury and DNA damage.

8. Dioxins – are mainly released to the environment through combustion. Dioxins bio-accumulate in the body and can lead to malformations of the foetus, decreased reproduction and growth rates and impairment of the immune system.

9. Lead – exposure to high levels of lead can cause vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, headache, convulsions, coma or even death. Continued excessive exposure, as in an industrial setting, can affect the kidneys. In young infants, it can damage nervous system, cause blood and brain disorders.

10. Mercury – If ingested or inhaled it bioaccumulates causing brain and liver damage.

11. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – PCBs have high lipid solubility and slow metabolism rate and hence accumulate in the fat-rich tissues of almost all organisms (bioaccumulation). They cause cancer in animals, affect the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and the endocrine system.

12. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the most widely-used plastic, used in everyday electronics and appliances, household items, pipes, upholstrery etc. PVC contains high amounts of chlorine which when burned produces hydrogen chloride gas, which combines with water to form hydrochloric acid and is dangerous when inhaled leading to respiratory problems.

13. Selenium – Is responsible for selenosis characterized by hair loss, nail brittleness, and neurological abnormalities.

Therefore, managing these wastes is our only sure way that we will conserve Kenya’s natural resources. How can we contribute in minimizing e-waste in our country whether individually or collectively? Several interventions are needed such as
1. Purchase energy efficient electronics
2. Purchase electronics that have less toxic components
3. Choose products that are returnable, reusable, or refillable over single-use items
4. Buy items made of recycled content, and use and reuse them as much as you can
5. Whenever there is awareness seminars on e-waste management feel free to attend and participate
6. Gather as much information as possible about e-waste management before buying electronics
7. When your gadget is dead, ensure that you dispose it correctly
8. Assess whether you really need an extra electronic gadget. Sometimes we buy gadgets we do not need and hence contribute to increased generation of e-waste.
9. If you have to buy a new gadget, assess your needs and determine whether your needs could be met by buying a gadget with multiple functions
10. Take care of your electronics to extend their life. For instance don’t overcharge the battery, keep the devise clean, store the devise in a case/porch.
11. Donate the electronic gadgets you do not need to social institutions such as schools, social centres, and the disadvantaged

Make it your habit to keep the environment clean and eco-friendly.

References

NEMA (2010) Guidelines for E-waste management in Kenya. NEMA, Nairobi

Hazardous Substances in e-Waste Downloaded at http://ewasteguide.info/hazardous-substances on 2nd March 2016

Questions

1. Estimate the amount of e-waste you have in your home/office/workplace.
2. What are you planning to do with that e-waste?

Types of e-waste and examples of equipment

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In my earlier article I explained the definition of e-waste and the dangers of improper handling of e-waste. Some people may have been left wondering what e-waste categories exist and types of equipments in each category. In this post I present these details. Please follow my later posts where I will be explaining how to deal with each e-waste category while complying with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (1999) and EMCA Amendment Act (2015).

The National Environment Management Authority published the “Guidelines for E-waste management in Kenya” (NEMA, 2010) where the categories of e-waste are explained in great detail. These are explained as shown below.

ICT and Telecommunications equipment

Mainframes, personal computers (CPU, mouse, screen and keyboard etc), laptop computers, printers, networking equipment, scanners, mobile phones, CD / DVDs / floppy disks, UPSs, radio sets, television sets, video cameras, video recorders, Hi-fi recorders, audio amplifiers and musical instruments.

Office electronics

Photocopying equipment, electrical and electronic typewriters, pocket and desk calculators, facsimile and telephones.

Large Household Appliances

Refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dish washing machines, cooking equipment, microwaves, electric heating appliances, electric hot plates, electric radiators, electric fans, air conditioner appliances, exhaust ventilation and conditioning equipment, large appliances for heating beds, rooms and seating furniture.

Small Household Appliances

Vacuum cleaners, carpet sweepers, water dispensers, toasters, fryers, appliances for hair-cutting, hair drying, brushing teeth, shaving and massage; electric knives, clocks, appliances used for sewing, knitting and weaving.

Consumer Equipment

Equipment for turning, milling, sanding, grinding, sawing, cutting, shearing, drilling, punching, folding, bending or processing wood, metal and other materials. Tools for riveting, nailing or screwing or removing rivets, nails, screws or similar uses. Tools for welding, soldering or similar use. Tools for mowing or other gardening activities, sewing machines etc.

Toys, leisure and sports equipment

Electric trains or car racing sets, hand-held video game, video games, computers for biking, diving, running, rowing, etc. Sports equipment with electric or electronic components.

Lighting

Fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lamps, high intensity discharge lamps, pressure sodium lamps, metal halide lamps, low pressure sodium lamps and any other lighting or equipment for the purpose of spreading or controlling light with the exception of filament bulbs.

Medical equipment

Scanners, operating electrical equipments such as stethoscopes, radiotherapy equipment, cardiology equipment, dialysis equipment, pulmonary ventilators, nuclear medicine equipment, laboratory equipment for in-vitro diagnosis, analyzers and freezers. Other electrical appliances for detecting, preventing, monitoring, treating, alleviating illness, injury or disability.

Automatic dispensers

Automatic dispensers for hot drinks, for hot or cold bottles or cans, for solid products, for money, and other appliances which deliver automatically all kind of products.

Monitoring and control instruments

Smoke detectors, heating regulators, thermostats, measuring, weighing or adjusting appliances for household or as laboratory equipment and other monitoring and control instruments used in industrial installations.

Batteries

Lead, Nickel and Cadmium batteries etc.

Reference

NEMA (2010) Guidelines for E-waste management in Kenya. NEMA, Nairobi

Questions

1. From the list of categories, equipments and appliances itemized, what e-waste do you have at home that require appropriate disposal?
2. Have you witnessed any e-waste disposed improperly within your vicinity?
3. What are the hazards associated with improper disposal of the e-waste in your custody?
4. Where are the appropriate disposal sites within your region for the e-waste?

Dangers of poor e-waste handling

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The term e-waste is a generic term encompassing various forms of electrical and electronic equipment that are old, end-of-life electronic appliances, or have ceased to be of any value to their owners. E-waste includes electronics which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal. E-waste is the most rapidly growing problem in the waste stream due to its quantity, toxicity and carcinogenicity. Often, the toxic material is improperly disposed and thus poses a threat to human health and the environment.

Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) poses one of the greatest environmental challenges globally and in particular to developing countries. Increased changes in technology especially in ICT, low initial cost, and high rates of obsolescence have resulted in a fast-growing surplus of e- waste generation in Kenya. UNEP estimates the current e-waste generated annually in Kenya at 11,400 tonnes from refrigerators, 2,800 tonnes from TVs, 2,500 tonnes from personal computers, 500 tonnes from printers and 150 tonnes from mobile phones (UNEP & UNU, 2009). This has resulted in e-waste management challenges that call for interventions.

The ecological, economic and social consequences resulting from poor handling and management of e-waste include:

Environmental consequences
 Air pollution, especially when e-waste is burnt
 Waste management problem of non-biodegradable equipment
 Toxicity and radioactive nature of e-waste to the human, water, soil and animals
 Blockage of water runoff channels
 Increased amount of waste
 Waste management disposal problem
Economic consequences
 Substantial public spending on health care
 Investments in complex and expensive environment remediation technologies
 Loss / waste of resources that can be recycled for re-use
 Opportunities for recycling industries and employment lost
 Ozone depletion has led to unpredictable weather conditions. Prolonged droughts and
floods demand the use of resources which should be deployed for growth and development in other sectors
Social consequences
 E-waste affects people’s health (e.g. lead poisoning and cancerous mercury).
 Growth of informal waste disposal centres in the neighbourhood
 Informal trade and management of e-waste
 Loss of appreciation for ICT

Reference

NEMA (2010) Guidelines for E-waste management in Kenya. NEMA, Nairobi