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Why Nairobi’s garbage has become a goldmine

By MUCHEMI WACHIRA

For a long time, the business of collecting garbage was regarded as a lowly task and the preserve of lay-abouts.

But today, it is a multi-million-shilling venture, attracting interests of the high and mighty.

“As residents generated garbage all over, it turned out to be a big problem for the city council,” Environment Chief officer Leah Oyake  explains.

With regulations that demand that any waste in an urban centre must be taken to a dumpsite, and as the city’s daily garbage volumes grow, investors are joining the beeline for waste management contracts at City Hall.

The Nairobi County Government spends billions of shillings annually on garbage collection alone – enough  motivation for the jostling.

The sector was not always this lucrative though. As late as the early 1990s, only the City Council of Nairobi could collect the trash from homes.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

But by the turn of the millennium private companies had joined the fray, licensed by City Hall.

“We charge the companies depending on the estate. In some estates we ask the individual owners to pay Sh1,000 per household while in others we charge as low as Sh80,” add Mr Samuel Onyancha, chairman of Waste and Environment Management Association of Kenya (Wemak).

Wemak is an umbrella body for companies involved in waste management business.

The government in 2014 asked the Japan International Co-operation Agency (Jica) to assist it with the formulation of a waste disposal masterplan.

Jica suggested the sub-division of the city into garbage zones. City Hall then awarded exclusive rights to clear the Kilimani-Kangemi-Kileleshwa-Lavington zone to a company called Sifa Limited, touching off a court case.