Audits for identifying polluting brands is a growing science all over the world. These audits mostly focus on plastics because of their pervasive presence and well-documented effects on the environment.
The 2021 PET Rubbish Report is the first national brand audit report done in Kenya. This report is done with the partnership of Clean Up Kenya and Nairobi Recyclers. Changing Markets Foundation provided some assistance for report documentation. The report focuses on the plastic material chemically known as polyethylene terephthalate and often abbreviated as PET. This material is the one used to traditionally package soft drinks and water.
This report was physically conducted in six counties in Kenya over a period of five months, namely, Nairobi, Kajiado, Kisumu, Uasin Gishu, Mombasa, and Kilifi. More data was collected nationally through citizen science where members of the public submitted random individual pictures which were published online on dedicated social media platforms and later audited. Those who submitted the data were not informed of the purpose of their submission to keep the data credible.
While this report has some limitations, it is very credible as the trends from different cluster areas reveal.
Coca-Cola brands remain the most polluting in Kenya nationally both in the carbonated drinks (sodas and energy drinks) and non-carbonated category of juices. However, Club brands have a strong showing along the Kenyan coast in the carbonated drinks category.
In the water category, the report found a large number of brands operating in the country. Many are restricted to small regions. Some do not have the standardization mark from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and others do not have complete contact information on labels. With every new audit, more brands were found and it is likely that there are many more nationally that this report did not capture. This suggests an unregulated production of packaged water in the country putting at risk the health of Kenyans.
Quencher Life, a product of Excel Chemicals, was found to be the most polluting water brand, and even for such a national product, Quencher Life lacks complete contact labeling.
The traceable brands including the Kenya Association of Manufacturers were contacted to respond to this report but did not reply.
Our purpose in conducting this research are twofold:
The first objective is to increase visibility on the issue of pollution caused by plastic bottles and hopefully interest the media to highlight this and other emerging problems. Some of the concerns include low pay for waste pickers who are responsible for the recovery of over 90 % of plastics from the environment and the rampant issue of child labor in recovery and collection across the country, as our data collectors found out.
The second objective is to inspire more sustainable interventions from all stakeholders, particularly government and industry.
We are aware that there are advanced efforts to have Kenya adopt a mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility regime. While this is welcome, we recommend that the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) become the primary base for producer responsibility under this law. With such an arrangement, consumers will be required to make a ‘returnable deposit’ for PET packaging in the same way this is done for beer glass bottles. This will ensure all plastic bottles are recovered from the environment without contamination to enable more recycling and position the country as a leader in circular economy. END
Learn more about this report here.
ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA