Inadequacies of solid waste management among public, private and community based organisations and its impact on health


Solid waste is any material which comes from domestic, commercial, and industrial sources arising from human activities; which has no value to people who possess it and is discarded as useless. In the early days, waste disposal did not pose difficulty as habitations were sparse and land was plentiful. Waste disposal became problematic with the rise of towns and cities where large numbers of people started to congregate in relatively small areas in pursuit of livelihoods. Waste has become a major health hazard that undermines people’s right to a safe life. All forms of waste, municipal, biomedical or industrial if not treated and disposed off carefully are a threat to the health of people as well as environment (Mohan, 2003).

If current trends continue, the world may see a fivefold increase in waste generation by the year 2025. Moreover, waste generation rates are set to more than double in the next twenty years in low and middle income countries, the costs of managing the waste is also expected to witness a steep rise. The differences in efficiency in waste management in developed and developing countries remain wide despite expenditures are comparable or similar. Low income countries spend most of their expenditure on waste collection rather than disposal while developed countries emphasize on reduction and segregation at source.

The collection, transfer and disposal of waste is generally the responsibility of metropolitan governments in both developed and developing worlds. Government agencies in urban areas spend about 20-40% of revenues on waste management; yet they are unable to keep pace with the scope of the problem (Zerbock 2003).

Waste management is a growing problem in in most cities. Increasing urbanization, rural-urban migration, rising standards of living and rapid development associated with population growth have resulted in increased solid waste generation by industrial, domestic and other activities. The increase in solid waste generation has not been accompanied by equivalent increase in the capacity of urban authorities to deal with this problem. The proper management of waste has thus become one of the most pressing and challenging environmental problems in many cities in the world (JICA, 1998). The inability of city authority to collection and disposal waste, has led to indiscriminate dumping, poor sanitary conditions, and incidences of environment-related health problems (Ikiara, 2006).

Urbanisation and Waste Management

Global perspective

Proper management of waste has been a critical aspect in urban areas, especially in mega cities which are major centres of waste generation. Irregular collection or non-collection, transportation in open vehicles, and environmentally unsafe methods of processing and disposal of waste are common features of a large number of urban areas across the developing countries (JICA, 1998).

The collection, transfer and disposal of waste have been generally assumed by metropolitan governments in both developed and developing world. This constitutes a basic and expected government function. The format varies in most urban areas where solid waste is collected either by a government agency or private contractor. Despite the fact that developing countries do spend about 20 to 40 per cent of metropolitan revenues on waste management, they are unable to keep pace with the scope of the problem (Zerbock, 2003). In fact, when the governments of African countries were required by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prioritize their environmental health concerns, the results revealed that solid waste was identified as the second most important problem after water quality (Zerbock, 2003).

Waste management chain

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Waste management in all ramifications, is simply a planned system aimed at effectively controlling the production, storage, collection, transportation, processing and disposal of waste. Waste management is an important element of environmental protection. Its purpose is to provide hygienic, efficient and economic solid waste storage, collection, transportation and treatment or disposal of waste without polluting the atmosphere, soil or water system. The various steps involved in the management of solid waste from generation to the point of sanitary disposal are referred to as solid waste chain. It therefore means that the solid waste chain is the path trace by solid waste from generation to the final disposal point. The element of collection not only includes the gathering of solid waste, but also the hauling of waste after collection to the location where the collection vehicle is emptied.

Characteristics of Waste

Waste characterization is a waste stream analysis which involves a logical and systematic approach to obtaining and analysing data on one or more waste streams or sub-streams. Waste characterization provides an estimate of solid waste quantity and composition. Two commonly used methods of waste characterization are – material flow approach and site-specific study. However there is currently no agreed international standard for waste stream analysis or waste characterisation although many countries have national procedures for analysing their waste

(Karanja, 2005).

Waste Management Approaches

One of the recently developed waste management approach is ISSWM. The integrated sustainable solid waste management (ISSWM) was first developed in mid 1980s by a Dutch NGO called WASTE and further developed in 1990s by the Collaborative Working Group on Solid Waste Management in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. It then became a norm. The ISSWM is a system approach that recognizes three main dimensions including stakeholders, elements, and aspects.

The stakeholders are the people or organizations participating in solid waste management. This includes the waste generators who use the services, the service providers, the formal and informal private sector dealing with solid waste management, and other local or international institutions. Elements comprises the technical components of the waste management system starting from the generation of solid waste then the collection, transfer and transportation of waste to dumpsites or to treatment plant.

Solid Waste Regulations

International Conventions and Protocols

Basel convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 22 March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, in response to a public outcry following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.

The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash.

The Convention also provides for the establishment of regional or sub-regional centres for training and technology transfers regarding the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes and the minimization of their generation to cater to the specific needs of different regions and sub regions (article 14). Fourteen such centres have been established. They carry out training and capacity building activities in the regions.

Bamako convention

The Bamako convention (in full: Bamako convention on the ban on the import into Africa and the control of transboundary movement and management of hazardous wastes within Africa) is a treaty of African nations prohibiting the import of any hazardous (including radioactive) waste. The convention was negotiated by twelve nations of the Organisation of African Unity at Bamako, Mali in January, 1991, and came into force in 1998.

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Impetus for the Bamako Convention arose from the failure of the Basel Convention to prohibit trade of hazardous waste to less developed countries (LDCs), and from the realization that many developed nations were exporting toxic wastes to Africa. This impression was strengthened by several prominent cases. One important case, which occurred in 1987, concerned the importation into Nigeria of 18,000 barrels (2,900 m3) of hazardous waste from the Italian companies Ecomar and Jelly Wax, which had agreed to pay local farmer Sunday Nana $100 per month for storage. The barrels, found in storage in the port of Koko, contained toxic waste including polychlorinated biphenyls, and their eventual shipment back to Italy led to protests closing three Italian ports.

The Bamako Convention uses a format and language similar to that of the Basel Convention, but is much stronger in prohibiting all imports of hazardous waste. Additionally, it does not make exceptions on certain hazardous wastes (like those for radioactive materials) made by the Basel Convention. 

Environment Management and Coordination Act, EMCA 1999 (Sessional paper No.8 of 1999)

  • Part 12 (a) of the second schedule of Environment Management and Coordination Act states that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Audits (EA) shall be carried out for waste disposal including site for solid waste disposal.
  • Part V111 Section 87(1) states that no person shall discharge or dispose of any wastes whether generated within or outside Kenya, in such manner as to cause pollution to the environment or ill health to any person.
  • Section 89 states that any person who, at the commencement of this Act, owns or operates a waste disposal site or plant or generated hazardous waste , shall apply to the Authority for license under this part ,within six months after the commencement of this Act. Section 87(2), paragraphs (a) and (b) of EMCA provides that no person shall transport any waste other than in accordance with a valid license to transport waste issued by the Authority; and to a waste disposal site established in accordance with a license issued by the Authority.
  • Section 90 compels any person to stop the generation, handling, transportation, storage or disposal of any wastes where such generation, handling, transportation, storage or disposal presents an imminent and substantial danger to public health, the environment or natural resources.
  • Section 87(1) provides that no person shall discharge or dispose of any wastes, whether generated within or outside Kenya, in such manner as to cause pollution to the environment or ill health to any person.

Waste Management Regulations (2006)

Part 11 section 10 (1-5), 11 and 12 of Waste Management Regulations states that:

  • 10(1) Any person granted a licence under the Act and any other licence may be required by relevant local authority to operate a waste disposal site or plant, shall comply with all conditions imposed by the authority to ensure that such waste disposal site or plant operates in an environmentally sound manner.
  • 10(2) An application for licence to operate a waste disposal site or plant shall be in Form V as set out in the first schedule of the regulation and shall be accompanied by the prescribed fees set out in the second schedule
  • 10(3) A licence under the Act for the operation of waste disposal site or plant shall be in Form V as set out in the First schedule of these Regulations
  • 10(4) a licence to operate a waste disposal site or plant shall be valid for a period of one year from the date of issue and may be renewed for a further period of one year on such terms and conditions as the authority may deem necessary or impose for purposes of ensuing public health and sound environmental management.
  • 10(5) in issuing a waste disposal license, the Authority shall clearly indicate the disposal operation permitted and identified for the particular waste.
  • 11) Any operator of a disposal site or plant shall apply the relevant provisions on waste treatment under the local government act and regulations to ensure that such waste does not present any imminent and substantial danger to the public health, the environment and natural resources.
  • 12) Every licensed owner or operator shall carry out an annual environmental audit pursuant to the provision of the act.
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SWM is a growing problem in most, if not all urban centres. Use of crude equipment by waste collectors and transporters is a major challenge. Besides, unplanned housing has led to houses being in such close proximity, trucks would have a hard time accessing the interior parts of urban areas.

Based on the above, for adequate solid waste management, the following is suggested:

 There is a need to recognize, formalise and streamline the operation of CBO’s in waste collection so they have the same legal and operational status as Private Collectors;

 The CGN should fairly distribute the newly acquired trucks and compactors among all constituencies in Nairobi. These trucks should also operate daily. This will greatly boost waste collection.

 The CGN should be keen on recovering public land that has been grabbed. Besides other uses, such land can be allocated to sorting of waste.

 The CBOs should come together and form a union/sacco that will help them acquire funding for the activities. This is a more responsible approach compared to blaming the CGN on every failure.

 Government support is crucial to the recyclers, since they have no capital to invest in infrastructure and capacity building. Co-operative recycling should not be treated as a separate program, but rather be integrated into the county government solid waste program. Government recognition and commitment are essential in the success of these ventures.


Ikiara,C .(2006). “Opportunities and Challenges in Privatising Urban Environmental Infrastructure: Lessons from the Dandora Dumpsite Nairobi”. Paper presented at a Workshop on Public Expenditure and Service Delivery in Africa: Managing Public Expenditure to Improve Service Quality and Access 9-11 October 2006.

JICA 1998. The study on solid waste management in Nairobi City in the Republic of Kenya: final report. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); in collaboration with CTI Engineering & Environmental Technology Consultants. [Online]. Available from: [accessed 10 June 2014].

Karanja, A. 2005. Solid Waste Management in Nairobi: Actors, Institutional Arrangements and Contributions to Sustainable Development. PhD in Development Studies, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands. Available:

Mohan, D (2003). People’s Right to Safety. Health and Human Rights, 6 (2), pp.161-167.

Zerbock, O. (2003). Urban Solid Waste Management: Waste Reduction in Developing Nations. ( Accessed on 10th June, 2014.

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