The private sector has been challenged to champion and accelerate efforts towards a circular economy by evaluating investment opportunities with a view of maximizing limited resources in the country.
Speaking during the 6th Annual Circular Economy Conference held virtually on Friday last week, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Kenya, Mr. Maarteen Brouwers encouraged the government to develop a solid legal framework that will support the adoption of sustainable business practices.
The virtual conference aimed to create a mind shift of the private and public sectors to speed up the transition to a circular economy.
Mr. Brouwers said the private sector has a key role in driving the transition from a linear to a circular economy in which resources are valued and reused in ways that minimize environmental impacts and create decent, sustainable jobs. He encouraged the private sector to embrace the concept of ‘waste to value’ which will in turn create employment opportunities.
“The shift towards a circular economy is the way forward to achieving sustainable development Goal number 12 on responsible production and consumption,” Ambassador Brouwers said. “We need to exchange knowledge and experiences to accelerate the transition together and achieve our mutual shared goals.”
He also congratulated Kenya for reducing plastic waste and called for partnerships that are based on mutual interests across the globe to help transition to a circular economy by 2050.
In 2017, Kenya banned the use, manufacture, and importation of plastic carrier bags, and in 2019 banned the use of single-use plastic in select protected areas. These have significantly reduced plastic waste in Kenya.
The Director, Sustainable Inclusive Business Ms. Karin Boomsma noted that one of the key challenges in the adoption of the circular economy concept in most countries starts with the lack of inclusion of circularity into the polices as well as sector strategies. The need for proper infrastructure cannot be overemphasized, especially in waste management and the capacity for countries to recycle waste.
“We need to create a new system and it will require a new mindset. We also need to convince our businesses and the government to change our economic value chain” she said.
On her part, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) CEO Ms. Carole Karuga said that the private sector has a collective role in increasing awareness on circular economy and its extensive benefits. The sector continues to spearhead transformative public-private partnerships, providing market-based solutions anchored on environmental, economic, and social pillars.
“I am a firm believer of the cradle to cradle model, where everything is a resource for regenerating another product,” Ms. Karuga said.
“From green manufacturing, sustainable water use, regenerative agriculture, construction to tourism; industries must work together to close the loop by promoting and embracing the redesigning, repairing, recycling, reusing and reducing strategies.”
Kenya has made an enviable sustainability mark internationally with the development of stringent regulatory frameworks and policies that have lied ground for extended producer responsibility.
Dandora Hip Hop City Movement Founder Julias “Juliani” Owino said that our solutions must be people-centric and long term.
“We have to look at the world beyond our existence,” Juliani said. “We have to draw inspiration from global best practices to create local solutions as we champion for our local circular economy solutions.”
The EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Simon Mordue said that progress can be made to a sustainable future and that the green transition will only succeed if it’s global.
The circular economy aims to change the paradigm in relation to the linear economy, by limiting the environmental impact and waste of resources, as well as increasing efficiency at all stages of the product economy.
Dr. Ayub Macharia, Director of Environmental Education and Awareness in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that Kenya is struggling with uncontrolled dumping with the country not recycling enough, but the country is committed to a circular economy.
“Many counties have very tiny waste management facilities, but, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has mapped a future where there is a lot of reduction in waste generation, and recycling with less than 5% of the waste disposed of,” Dr. Macharia said.
“We are emphasizing on waste segregation at source, proper collection and transportation of waste and waste recovery facilities for further sorting of wastes,” Dr. Macharia added.
During the conference, the European Investment Bank represented by Ms. Catherine Collin, the Head of Regional Representation Eastern and Central Africa – European Investment Bank, re-affirmed commitment to renewable projects and said it will not support any fossil fuel investment starting 2021, but the bank has committed over €2.5 billion (Ksh316.5 billion) for the sustainable blue economy.
“We are committed to supporting the implementation of the European Green Deal here in Kenya by offering financing and project preparation support for the projects that will meet the eligibility criteria,” Ms. Collin said.
The European Green Deal is a plan to make the EU’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities and making the transition just and inclusive for all.
The virtual conference was also attended by the Principal Secretary State Department for Industrialization Dr. Francis Owino.
Delegates explored a range of topics including designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and material use; regenerating natural systems; and renewable use in the global context.