By Michael Jumba
In early times, when the population was still small and the land available to assimilate the wastes was large, waste disposal did not pose a problem. But when man began to form groups, villages and communities, wastes became a consequence of life that needed to be taken care of (UNEP, 2005).
Unfortunately, epidemics like the bubonic plague and many more fatal events had to happen before man realized that he had to properly manage the wastes he produced. From careless open dumping practices to engineered sanitary landfills, proper and effective solid waste management has evolved into what it is today and continues to transform as society evolves (UNEP, 2005). Open dumping is still the most prevalent method of waste disposal for many countries, most particularly the less developed ones. The foremost reasons for this practice are lack of knowledge and financial constraints. Nonetheless, it should not require another epidemic, sickness, or contamination before national and local governments give proper solid waste management the priority and urgency it deserves (UNEP, 2005).
What is waste?
Waste can be loosely defined as any material that is considered to be of no further use to the owner and is, hence, discarded. However, most discarded waste can be reused or recycled, one of the principles of most waste management philosophies. What may be of no further use to one person and regarded as waste to be dumped, may be of use to the next person, and is the basis of the rag picking trade, the sifting through of refuse at landfills for recovery and resale, a very fundamental historical waste management practice still functioning in many countries, often conducted on a highly organised commercial basis.
Waste is generated universally and is a direct consequence of all human activities. Wastes are generally classified into solid, liquid and gaseous. Gaseous waste is normally vented to the atmosphere, either with or without treatment depending on composition and the specific regulations of the country involved. Liquid wastes are commonly discharged into sewers or rivers, which in many countries is subject to legislation governing treatment before discharge.
In many parts of the world such legislation either does not exist or is not sufficiently implemented, and liquid wastes are discharged into water bodies or allowed to infiltrate into the ground. Indiscriminate disposal of liquid wastes pose a major pollution threat to both surface and groundwater. In this article we will focus on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
So what is Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)?
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is a type of non-hazardous solid wastes (with the exception of household hazardous waste) generated by households, businesses, institutions, and light industry (administrative, cafeteria, packaging, etc.), including ash from the combustion of MSW. Types of solid waste excluded from the definition of MSW are industrial process waste, construction and demolition debris, offal, sludges, tires, and ashes, except ashes from the combustion of MSW (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1995).
In another definition, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly called “trash” or “garbage,” includes wastes such as durable goods (e.g., tires, furniture), nondurable goods (e.g., newspapers, plastic plates/cups), containers and packaging (e.g., milk cartons, plastic wrap), and other wastes (e.g., yard waste, food). This category of waste generally refers to common household waste, as well as office and retail wastes, but excludes industrial, hazardous, and construction wastes (Center for Sustainable Systems, 2016). In many developing countries of which Kenya is a part, municipal solid waste disposal by open dumping is still under practice for reasons such as: ignorance of the health risks associated with dumping of wastes; acceptance of the status quo due to lack of financial resources to do anything better; lack of political determination to protect and improve public health and the environment; by traditions thus it is the oldest known way to handle MSW, just to fill a hole in the ground (Kurian et.al., Undated).
Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM)
Municipal solid waste management (MSWM) is an intricate process encompassing planning, engineering, organization, administration, financial and legal aspects of activities associated with generation, storage, collection, transfer and transport, processing and disposal of municipal solid waste (household garbage and rubbish, street sweepings, construction debris, sanitation residue etc.) (Shafqat et.al., 2014). Unfortunately, MSWM has not always been a high priority for local and national policy makers and planners, especially in developing countries. Other issues with more social and political urgency might take precedence and leave little budget for waste issues. Thus, in many cities around the world, effective, functioning policy measures have been elusive and the resources invested in the sector inadequate. National governments can make a critical contribution by making waste management a national priority (United Nations Environment Programme, 2013).
The collection of municipal solid waste is a public service that has important impacts on public health and the appearance of towns and cities. It is one of the important obligatory functions of any urban local authority. It refers to all activities pertaining to the control, collection, transportation, processing and disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in accordance with the best principles of public health, economics, engineering, conservation, aesthetics and other environmental considerations (Munala and Moirongo, 2011). Unfortunately many urban administrations seem to be losing the battle of coping with the ever-increasing quantities of waste. The challenge is made greater by the diversity of materials in the waste, which is no longer mainly food waste and ash, but includes more and more plastic packaging, paper and discarded electronic equipment (UN-HABITAT, 2011).
In low-income countries as well as many middle-income countries, MSW is the largest single budget item for cities and one of the largest employers (Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata, 2012). However, the failure to consider important parameters of each particular location has led to many failed systems and the wastage of huge sums of money. In many cases, collection vehicles and containers have been purchased in large numbers but they have not been effective and have been operational for only short periods that are much less than their expected design lives. In some cases unsuitable equipment has been purchased because of corruption, but in many cases the fault lies with the assumption that the same type of waste collection equipment will work effectively in any situation (UN-HABITAT, 2011).
Solid waste management is one of the most difficult environmental problems in the urban centres of developing countries, where services are often grossly deficient, especially within low-income settlements. Often these settlements comprise a sizable proportion of the city’s area and population – as much as half in some cases. Rapid urban growth, accompanied by the increasing density of population, traffic congestion, air and water pollution, increasing per capita generation of solid waste and the lack of land conveniently situated for waste disposal, all point to a rapid further aggravation of the already acute problems of solid waste management. Future demands are certain to increase as cities’ residential, commercial and industrial sectors expand and as economies develop (Coffey & Coad, 2010).
The MSWM problem in Kenya
It is worth noting that Kenya as a country has some of the best legislations, regulations, strategy and policy in the world in-so-far-as environmental management and MSWM is concerned. Some of the legislations are: the Kenya Constitution (2010), the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA)1999, the national environment policy 2013, NEMA waste management regulations of 2006, the Kenya Vision 2030, the National Solid Waste Management Strategy, the Environmental Management and Coordination (Impact Assessment and Audit) Regulations 2003, the Public Health Act Chapter 242 of the Laws of Kenya (revised 2012), the Occupational Safety and Health Act 2007, the County Governments Act 2012, The urban areas and cities Act 2011, and Local government Act (Cap 265).
The Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act (EMCA), 1999 is an Act of Parliament meant to provide for the establishment of an appropriate legal and institutional framework for the management of the environment matters.
Chapter four, part two section 42 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) proclaims that every person has the right to a clean and healthy environment (Kenya, Republic, 2010). However, the situation on the ground is far from close to what is on paper. Municipal solid waste continues to be a major problem in our cities and rural towns.
According to the national environment policy 2013, 6.3.1 Inefficient production processes, low durability of goods and unsustainable consumption and production patterns lead to excessive waste generation. Despite efforts to encourage reuse, recycling and recovery, the amount of solid waste generated remains high and appears to be on the increase (Kenya, Republic, 2013).
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) waste management regulations of 2006, are very explicit in matters waste generation, waste transportation, and waste disposal. For example, concerning responsibility of waste generators, no person shall dispose of any waste on a public highway, street, road, recreational area or in any public place except in a designated waste receptacle and any person whose activities generate waste shall collect, segregate and dispose or cause to be disposed off such waste in the manner provided for under the regulations. Concerning transportation of municipal solid waste, a person licensed to provide the service shall ensure that the collection and transportation of such waste is conducted in such a manner that does not cause scattering, escaping and/or flowing out of the waste and that they shall ensure that the vehicles and equipment for the transportation of waste are in such a state that shall not cause the scattering of, escaping of, or flowing out of the waste or emitting of noxious smells from the waste (National Environment Management Authority, 2006).
Despite the existence of laws and policies guiding waste management, weak implementation and poor practices have led to towns and cities being overwhelmed by their own waste, consequently affecting public health and the environment (NEMA, 2015). Evidence points to the direction that we are lacking in integrated municipal solid waste management.
What is integrated municipal solid waste management?
According to Kaluli, Mwangi and Sira (2011), Integrated solid waste management includes source reduction, source separation, recycling and reuse as well as materials recovery. The waste materials that remain should be safely disposed into a sanitary landfill.
Sanitary land filling is an important component of integrated waste management for safe disposal of the fractions of municipal solid waste (MSW) that cannot be reduced, recycled, composted, combusted or processed. However, about three-quarters of the countries and territories around the world use ‘open dumping’ method of disposal of MSW. It is a primitive stage of landfill development at which solid wastes are disposed of in a manner that does not protect the environment, susceptible to open burning, and exposed to disease vectors and scavengers. Lack of adequate waste treatment and disposal infrastructure, large volumes of waste involved in metropolitan cities, proximity of disposal sites to the water bodies and ever-burgeoning residential areas even in the proximity of waste disposal sites has given rise to significant environmental deterioration and health impairment in most of the cities (Kurian et.al., Undated).
Challenges facing MSWM in Kenya
This urbanization and increased affluence has led to increased waste generation and complexity of the waste streams. This trend is compounded by growing industrialization of the Kenyan economy. Despite the existence of laws and policies guiding waste management, weak implementation and poor practices have led to towns and cities being overwhelmed by their own waste, consequently affecting public health and the environment (NEMA, 2015).
In low-income residential areas where most services are unsatisfactory, residents normally give priority to water supply, electricity, roads, drains and sanitary services. Solid waste is commonly dumped onto nearby open sites, along main roads or railroad tracks, or into drains and waterways. Pressure to improve solid waste collection arises as other services become available and awareness mounts regarding the environmental and health impacts of poor waste collection service.
Poorly served residents often form community-based organisations (CBO) to upgrade local environmental conditions, improve services and/or petition the government for service improvements. CBOs which may arise in middle and upper income neighbourhoods as well as in low-income areas may become valuable partners of the government in local waste management. When sufficiently organised, community groups have considerable potential for managing and financing local collection services and operating waste recovery and composting activities (Schubeler, Wehrle, & Christen, 1996).
At the moment in Kenya, the involvement and engagement of these valuable stakeholders is still inadequate.
In addition to the problem, municipal decision makers do not give adequate priority to SWM. Instead, financial allocations go for staff salaries as the first priority, and what is left is spent on visible infrastructure projects. Very little is allotted to improving SWM services, varying between 1 percent and 30 percent of the total municipal budget depending on the size of the municipality (Zhu et.al, 2008).
Vehicles may be unreliable because they are not suited to the work they have to do or the conditions they work in, because they are driven carelessly or misused in other ways, or because they are not properly maintained. The reliability of vehicles can be measured in terms of their availability, which is the proportion of the time that they are available for service (UN-HABITAT, 2011).
While the NEMA waste management regulations of 2006 are very clear on the type of vehicles that are to be used for MSWM in Kenya, open vehicles that spread waste as they are driven are currently being used on our roads posing both environmental and health risks.
The Schubeler et.al., (1996) conceptual framework
The Schubeler et. al. (1996) conceptual framework provides brief definitions of the main concepts of MSWM and identifies the goals and principles that normally guide MSWM system development. The conceptual framework is structured along three principle dimensions, corresponding to the questions: What is the scope of waste management activities? Who are the actors and development partners in the field? and, How should strategic objectives and issues be addressed?.
According to the conceptual framework, the goals of MSWM are: to protect environmental health, to promote the quality of the urban environment, to support the efficiency and productivity of the economy and to generate employment and income. On the other hand, the principles of sustainable waste management strategies are: to minimize waste generation, to maximise waste recycling and reuse, and to ensure the safe and environmentally sound disposal of waste. Concerning the scope of waste management activities, Schubeler et.al. (1996) assert that within the overall framework of urban management, the scope of MSWM encompasses planning and management, waste generation and waste handling processes.
The conceptual framework describes the (Actors) in MSWM as a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders e.g. individuals, groups and organisations are concerned with MSWM as service users, service providers, intermediaries and/or regulators. Schubeler et.al. describe context as the prevailing political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors which determine the effectiveness and sustainability of MSWM systems.
Lastly, the conceptual framework discusses the strategic aspects of MSWM. These aspects may be understood as those portions of the context which are directly influenced and/or mobilised by waste management strategies. Development of sustainable MSWM systems implies that specific objectives be formulated and appropriate measures taken regarding a range of strategic aspects for example, enhancing technical capacity in MSWM.
Kryptone Consulting Limited has staff with adequate capacity to offer solid waste management solutions. In our MSWM business undertakings, we have operationalized the Schubeler et.al. model and the UN waste management hierarchy model to fit our clients' needs. Our services here are: