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Kenya Steps Ahead With Design Guidelines For Recycling Plastic Packaging  

Kenya moves closer to managing plastic pollution menace

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The Kenya Plastics Pact on 2nd June 2023 released its first version of the Design Guidelines for Recyclability in Kenya, for PET bottles and HDPE bottles & jars, during the Pre-World Environment Day National Dialogue held on Wednesday the 31st May in Nairobi. The guidelines are in line with the pact’s second target to ensure that 100% of plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030. This year’s World Environment Day theme is Beat Plastic Pollution.

The guidelines have been reviewed by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), and approved by all 40 official members and supporters of the pact including plastic packaging manufacturers, importers and exporters, prominent FMCG brands, committed small and medium businesses, informal waste pickers’ associations and recyclers, influential industry associations, environmental NGOs, and advocacy groups/civil society.

“Addressing plastic pollution requires collective action at multiple levels,” says Ms Carole Kariuki, the CEO of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, in her remarks presented by Dr John Wandaka, KEPSA Vice-Chair of the Environment, Water and Natural Resources Sector Board. “It entails strengthening waste management systems, promoting sustainable practices, investing in recycling infrastructure, enforcing regulations, and fostering behaviour change.”

Ms Kariuki said the guidelines will provide clear recommendations to decision-makers on how to design plastic packaging to be compatible with current mechanical recycling infrastructure, which will push for solutions to plastic pollution at the design level.

Karin Boomsma, the project lead at the Kenya Plastics Pact, said the challenge raised by this environmental crisis lies at the heart of the Pact. “Together we will create a circular economy for plastics where it stays in the economy and does not end up in the environment,” said Boomsma.

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The unregulated dumping and plastics packaging ending up in landfills pose a critical and often immediate threat to countless endangered species, ecosystems and dependent socio-economic systems all over the country. Of the total plastics produced in Kenya, approximately 36% are used in packaging, out of which approximately 85% end up in landfills or as unregulated waste.

Some factors that affect the recyclability of packaging material are the additives, such as coatings, caps seals and liners. These additives make the sorting process more complicated since, if mixed, will contaminate the recycled product.

In recent years, a growing demand for greater sustainability in packaging design has been apparent. Sustainable packaging incorporates functionality and the protection of products while keeping its ecological footprint to a minimum and enabling reuse and recycling.

The new guidelines emphasize the need to rethink the design of packaging to improve its future recyclability while guaranteeing its functionality. Consequently, the Kenya Plastics Pact also announced the launch of the “Let’s Be Clear Challenge”, an Innovation Challenge in partnership with WWF-Kenya. The innovation challenge will increase awareness, scale willingness and ensure commitment towards the design guidelines for recyclability.

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Simply, plastic packaging is recyclable when it can be recycled. Based on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment, the Kenya Plastics Pact explains the definition as follows: a packaging or a packaging component is recyclable if post-consumer collection, sorting, and recycling are proven to work in practice and at scale. The design guidelines are presented in three categories, signifying compatibility with recycling:

  • Green: Packaging features that are generally compatible with or separable from the main material and are acceptable in recycling processes in large volumes.
  • Yellow: Packaging materials that are recyclable in some applications, but could contaminate the recycling process.
  • Red: Packaging items and materials that are generally not compatible with the current recycling systems or not separable from the main material in current processes and will contaminate the recycling process.

During the launch, the Pact received commitments from businesses and innovators including Coca-Cola, Biofoods, Bidco Africa, and Takataka Solutions; which showcased the power of the guidelines and the impact they will have on the plastics value chain. The guidelines are designed to inspire, inform and motivate all stakeholders to improve and increase recycling and reduce unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging.

“One of the initiatives we’re taking towards reducing plastics is the removal of the plastic seal in the country’s leading water brand Planet Aqua. We will consciously continue to improve this over the coming years and implement our ESG and SDGs,” affirmed the Head of Beverages and Snacks at BIDCO Africa, Mr Tushar Mehta.

To see full report on guidelines, click here

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