Exploring the circular economy potential of Naivasha’s organic waste

Livestock rummaging for food remains in a dumpsite. Photo: Daniel Ddiba / SEI.
Livestock rummaging for food remains in a dumpsite. Photo: Daniel Ddiba / SEI.

Every day, Kenyan urban areas generate solid waste at the rate of 0.31 to 0.75 kg per person per day. Less than half of that waste is collected and only about 8% of it is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and dump sites leading to pollution, adverse health impacts and degradation of the ecosystem.

SEI researchers published a report detailing an inventory of organic waste resources, ongoing resource recovery initiatives, and stakeholders involved in sanitation, waste management and resource recovery in Naivasha. This is a first step towards creating scenarios and roadmaps for a circular economy based on organic waste resources in Naivasha. These in turn are intended to point the way for other cities in Kenya and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to projects from the United Nations, Kenya’s urban population is expected to grow from 15 million in 2020 to about 43 million by 2050, pointing to the need to address the challenge of sanitation and waste resource management. It is against this backdrop that the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in collaboration with Sanivation and other local partners are exploring solutions to this challenge through the UrbanCircle project.

The UrbanCircle project aims to explore the opportunities and benefits of a circular economy approach to sanitation and waste management in Naivasha Sub-county, Kenya, among other cities. A circular economy is one where the ‘end-of-life’ concept is replaced with reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering materials in production, distribution and consumption processes. This ultimately ensures sustainable resource management which promotes economic prosperity and environmental quality. Harnessing the opportunities for resource management also contributes towards the efforts of climate change mitigation, reduced eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems, and reduced dependency on fertilizer imports. In addition, directly managing organic waste leads to improved health, access to proper sanitation, as well as clean water and food.

Waste management systems often involve a linear approach comprising of 4 steps ‒ organic waste resource generation: collection, emptying and transport, treatment to some extent, and finally disposal. This last stage of disposal as an ‘end-of-life’ phase is what the circular economy approach tries to replace with reusing and recycling. A waste management system with a circular approach, therefore, typically includes sorting or source separation, extending the treatment process to include the production of resource recovery products, and the distribution and use of the products.

Readying vegetable waste for the biogas digester at Gorge Park Energy Farm, Naivasha. Photo: Daniel Ddiba / SEI

Naivasha Sub-County presented itself as an interesting case study for urban centers aiming towards the circular economy. Apart from its growing population and strategic importance for agriculture and tourism, Naivasha has significant amounts of a wide range of organic waste streams, as well as local knowledge and experience from existing resource-recovery initiatives. This organic waste ranges from wastewater, fecal sludge, and agricultural and industrial processing waste from the horticulture and floriculture industry. SEI researchers and partners assessed the quantities of these available waste streams, finding that Naivasha has almost 1 million cubic meters of wastewater and 54000 cubic meters of faecal sludge handled by NAIVAWASCO annually. Over 25000 tonnes of solid waste are received at the subcounty’s dumpsite and there are about 22000 tonnes of vegetable waste that is turned into biogas annually. Waste resource recovery in Naivasha would mean a reduction in the growing amount of waste which is in line with the draft waste management policy by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as well as Kenya’s Vision 2030 aspirations to develop a more sustainable and circular economy.

The report includes a catalogue of the various stakeholders involved in the sanitation and waste services chain in Naivasha including both national and local public authorities such as the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and the Naivasha Water, Sewerage and Sanitation Company Ltd (NAIVAWASCO). There are Research and innovation institutions such as Egerton University and the non-profit Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) who are also involved in developing new solutions and approaches for managing organic waste resources. A variety of industry associations, Community Based Organizations and NGOs in Naivasha also conduct several activities aimed at educating and raising awareness among the public about sanitation, waste management and resource recovery.

There are several initiatives for resource recovery that are currently being run in Naivasha either focused on turning organic waste into compost and organic fertilizers, or on turning organic wastes into energy. Most of those making compost are run by community-based organizations such as Waste to Best and Kwa Muhia Environmental Group, while those making energy products are operated by private sector actors. Sanivation, for instance, produces solid fuel products for cooking and heating made from fecal sludge and sawdust. These products are which are essentially carbonized briquettes, are branded as super logs and super balls and they are readily available for purchase at market friendly prices. The Tropical Power Energy Group has also been generating electricity from biogas made out of vegetable waste in Naivasha since 2015.

The inventory in this report is a precursor to further research activities that will focus on exploring viable alternatives for recovering resources from Naivasha’s organic waste streams, using SEI’s REVAMP tool, and done in collaboration with partners like Sanivation and Egerton University. It is hoped that this work will provide relevant insights for stakeholders implementing circular initiatives in Naivasha and similar cities elsewhere in the world.

This post was originally published on www.sei.org.