Clean Up Kenya was established in July 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in the country. When we began, the focus was on the issues of solid waste management as manifested by littering and illegal dumping.
The scope of our work has gradually expanded to include several thematic areas along the materials life-cycle from design and production to waste generation and management.
Since inception, we have conducted advocacy work on these issues which has inspired many positive actions across the country including the signature decision by the Government of Kenya to ban single-use carrier bags in 2017.
We have also run two flagship projects, Urban Community Cleanups Initiative (UCCI) and Kenya Children for Environmental Change (KCEC), in several counties where thousands of citizens and hundreds of organizations have been reached. The KCEC, is an environmental mentorship project targeting children under the age of thirteen and which has directly impacted over 6000 beneficiaries with a multiplier effect on 30,000 more.
Some of the organizations we have collaborated with on projects include UN Environment, UNESCO, Africa Development Bank, Grid Arendal (Norway), National Environment Management Authority, Kenya Commercial Bank, Packaging Industries Limited, Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, Gaplink International, Kenya Wildlife Services Training Institute, Debbi Oyugi Kids, How Global, Sanivation, among others.
In April 2019, we launched the #CleanUpKenyaCoalition, the premier national coalition against pollution in Kenya. Three months after launch, the coalition had recruited over 2500 members including students, private citizens, public leaders, and several organizations.
Our long term plan is to provide sustainability consultancy to governments, the private sector, and the public and to expand our work across Africa.
Clean Up Kenya is led by its Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Betterman Simidi, with the help of a Country Director, Martin Muriithi, and is supported by an Advisory Board. Since 2016, we have benefited from technical expertise from different technocrats including, Dr. Yolanda Coombes, a behavioral scientist, and a former Sanitation Specialist at the World Bank.
Kenya is an East African country with a fledgling democracy whose Capital City of Nairobi is a Regional Hub that hosts the headquarters of the global United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Multi partyism has been practiced in the country since 1992 with elections being held every five years.
The country has a population of around 50 million persons according to the 2019 census with about 30% living in urban centers. Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Thika, and Nyeri are the other biggest urban centers in terms of population. Most of these urban centers are either located around a major water body or a near major river.
In 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution which radically changed the structure of government. The country was divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties. The counties are headed by Governors with their cabinet and a County Assembly that makes laws as par devolved functions.
One of these functions is that of waste management. The national government under the state agency of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) provides policy guidance for the counties. Other national agencies that play a significant role include the Water Resources Authority (WRA) whose mandate revolves around water bodies.
The country has a coastline of 1420 kilometers along the Indian Ocean with two major rivers of Tana (1000 kilometers) and Athi-Galana-Sabaki (390 kilometers) draining their waters into the ocean.
Other rivers such as Yala, Sondu, and Nzoia drain their waters into Lake Victoria, which is one of the largest lakes in the world and for which Kenya shares her waters with Tanzania and Uganda. Lake Victoria on the other hand, through one of the longest rivers in the world, River Nile, drains its waters into the Mediterranean Sea. Other Lakes such as Lake Naivasha, Nakuru, Bogoria, Magadi, Turkana, and Elmentaita have several rivers and streams that drain water (and plastics) into them. Some of these Lakes like Naivasha, which was designated a RAMSAR site by UNESCO in 1995, have no known outlets, which means whatever gets in stays in.
Many of these rivers pass through urban centers which are major sources of plastic waste. Athi-Galana-Sabaki River, for example, has sources just upstream of Nairobi and cuts through the city where it is estimated only about fifty percent of the 4000 tons of the waste generated daily is collected.
According to a World Bank Report, only about 7% of plastic waste in Kenya is ever recycled, about 24% is taken to landfills and an alarming 69% ends in water bodies. This significant amount of plastic waste ending up in water bodies is mainly because the urban centers cannot properly manage plastic waste and the uptake of behavioral education on proper disposal is low among the urban communities.
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Network partners at International Waste Platform have teamed up with Less Plastic UK to launch a global campaign to reduce single-use plastic items and packaging in the hospitality and retail sector.