Member of Parliament to request for a Ministerial Statement on plastic pollution in Kenya

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Dagoretti South Member of Parliament, Hon. John Kiarie, popularly known as KJ, attended the launch of the 2021 PET Rubbish report done by Clean Up Kenya and Nairobi Recyclers which places The Coca-Cola Company at the center of the plastic waste pandemic in Kenya.

At the request by Clean Up Kenya Founder and Patron, Betterman Simidi, the Member of Parliament will request a Ministerial Statement in the Kenyan Parliament on the issues of rampant child labor in recycling in the country particularly in collection and recovery of PET waste, and low pay for Kenya’s waste pickers, despite billions of shillings being given by drinks corporations for subsidies.

These subsidies are challenged to PETCO Kenya, a voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility organization as well as KEPRO, both associated with the Kenya Association of Manufacturers. These funds are then given to select companies involved in recycling in select Kenyan cities with the intention that they would increase the price of plastic recovered by collectors and therefore mop up the waste from the environment.

Unfortunately, these funds do not benefit the waste pickers as the price of plastic waste per kilo has largely remained the same. In most places, the price is around 5 Kenya Shillings per kilo except in the North Rift where it’s below 5 shillings. Most waste pickers make 100 Kenya Shillings for a whole day of work for what they collect. Because the price is too low, mature waste pickers avoid collecting plastic bottles, meaning children are the real face of recycling for this stream of waste in the country.

On this issue of child labor in recycling, Clean Up Kenya has evidence from all across the country of children as young as seven years working on dumpsites to recover plastic waste. We have consistently highlighted this issue on social media and even tagged the Governors from some of the counties who have largely ignored the matter. In Uasin Gishu and Kilifi for example, we have found a large number of children working to recover plastics on school days, even despite the low pay.

A child working at a plastic recovery center in Kenya

There is no rationale as to why the Kenya Association of Manufacturers is giving subsidies to recyclers instead of directly to the waste pickers, given that the recyclers were already in business even before the subsidy scheme was established, unless they are intent on creating a cartel to profiteer at the expense of waste pickers.

Some of these recyclers masquerade as social ventures, selling the idea that ‘Taka ni Mali’, and that they are involved in community empowerment through recycling. While there is no doubt that waste can be turned into a resource and can indeed create wealth, it is a mockery to Kenya’s waste pickers, many of them children, to see senior government officers taking pictures behind these ‘Waste is Wealth’ banners. Yes, waste is wealth, but to the CARTEL!

These are the questions that Hon. John Kiarie has agreed to request a Ministerial Statement in Parliament, the first of its kind on the issue of plastic pollution. Once he files the request, the Cabinet Secretaries of Environment and Forestry, Labour, and Education will be forced to come to Parliament and issue a statement.


Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the de-facto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilizing for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. These cleanups are meant to increase visibility on the problem of waste and it is therefore common to see our volunteers in bibs with one message, ‘Clean Up Kenya’. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, green-washing NGOs, and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.