Treasure in Trash: A Case Study of PET Plastic Recycling
As many developing countries like Kenya become more consumerist societies, the consumption of plastics increases at a high rate. Though per capita consumption is low in comparison with industrialized countries, plastic application in low life-cycle products poses environmental problems in countries where solid waste goes mostly to landfill. Plastic waste accounts for about one-fifth of total waste in the form of bottles, packaging, toys, plastic bags, wrapping and disposable utensils and containers, to name a few. To limit the amount of material placed in the “waste stream”, a sustainable solution is the recycling of waste including plastic that used to end up at landfills. This paper focused on a practice case study examines the sustainability elements of a private sector venture to recycle PET(a thermoplastic used in the manufacture of plastic bottles) in Mombasa, Kenya. In analyzing this ‘appropriate’ small-scale operation within a developing country context, the paper makes a case for both sustainable economic and environmental benefits of recycling as a commercial industry to a developing economy like Kenya. Studies on waste management in Kenya emphasize the problem of inadequate waste disposal in the country. The fast growth of the urban sector, a lack of responsive capacity by the local authorities to provide waste management services and little enforceable legislative requirements are some of the factors that help augment the waste problem in Mombasa. Market solutions in the form of private collector firms have for some time been the inevitable resolution to the collection crisis, however its disposal still remains a landfill option with little attention given to recycling as a management strategy. As this case study demonstrates, reclaiming and processing waste manufactured products provides materials to make new ones, reducing the considerable waste to landfill and within its objectives achieves bifold economic and environmental benefits to the country.
Keywords: Economic Environment Sustainability, Plastic Waste-Management
Dr. Shamim Samani
PhD candidate, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Murdoch University