Sunday, April 14, 2024

How PETCO Is Managing Plastic Waste Menace In Kenya

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Launched in 2018, PET Recycling Company Ltd (PETCO Kenya) seeks to reduce plastics pollution in Kenya through better waste management practices, recycling, and up-cycling.

To have a wider reach and impact the firm has brought together different stakeholders into their ecosystems such as collectors, recyclers, industry experts, manufacturers, government, civil society, and other private sector associations

Besides creating employment opportunities for thousands of youths, recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is helping reduce pollution while giving a new life to waste through recycled products – creating a circular economy.

We caught up with PETCO Kenya country manager Joyce Gachugi for insights into the organization’s mission and operations.

Here are the excerpts:

According to the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, about 22,000 tonnes of PET plastic waste is generated in Kenya per year. How many tonnes has PETCO recycled since 2018 and what’s your target going forward?

As a young organization, we’ve been able to recycle 7,400 tonnes of PET plastic waste which represents 34 percent of what is produced annually. In 2020, in line with our strategic plan that covers the period 2019 to 2023, we are targeting a 45% recycling rate.

How many PET plastic members currently belong to the PETCO Kenya network? What’s your target?

Currently, we have 14 members, which account for 60% of the industries in carbonated soft drinks, water and juice market in the country.

PETCO pays Sh5 per kilo on top of what local recycling companies pay collectors that deliver plastic waste. How effective has this arrangement been in encouraging more volumes of recycled plastics? What plans do you have going forward?

We support the market by subsidizing the input price of post-consumer bottle collections into the recycling value chain. The subsidy is working, and recyclers have been able to dramatically increase their volumes. Offering a stimulus to collect plastic waste has greatly contributed to the success of recycling. More bottles mean more money.

Local recyclers have long cited low margins as a hindrance to up-scaling their operations. How can this be alleviated and drive interest in the sector?

Margins are not making sense for those who are carting post-consumer bottles from far-flung counties due to inter-county levies (cess). The county government should waive the rest of the recycling companies to join us in order to scale up the recycling scheme.

PETCO recently signed an agreement of cooperation with Kenya Association of Manufacturers towards circular management of PET plastic bottles.

What’s the progress on this front?

We have developed a framework for post-consumer sustainable management of plastic bottles. We aim to have an end-user manufacturing company in Kenya. Currently, 90 percent of recycled plastic is exported to make new materials. As PETCO, we would love to attract the use of these materials locally.

Fortunately, in January this year, we were able to onboard an end-user recycler who is converting sustainable PET packaging into PET strapping which is recyclable. This, therefore, creates a circular economy.

We are also driving awareness campaigns amongst consumers on extended consumer responsibility.

Last year PETCO launched plastics drop-off points at Naivas Supermarkets.

How effective is this program and which other supermarkets are you working with or planning to work with under this program?

Naivas, as a member of PETCO and committed to promoting sustainability partnered with us to roll out drop off sites for recyclables. We are looking forward to scaling this up with them as well as other new and existing retail members.

Highlight some of the challenges you face as an organization in the green space

We are developing a new model of thinking and doing business in the PET packaging space, promoting a shift from linear thinking to a circular one. We are currently not supported by any legislative framework but in the interim, the government of Kenya has shown its commitment to doing so.

It is also difficult to shift behaviors among consumers without enforcement by government agencies;

However, we as PETCO are confident that we are walking on the right side of this discourse and we encourage everyone to join us as part of the coalition of the willing.

What’s the role of partnerships for PETCO in scaling up plastics recycling?

Partnerships are very critical. PETCO is offering a solution but it cannot do it alone. Efforts to recycle plastic bottles have been progressive, but the introduction of partnership in Kenya is poised to accelerate the recycling process and attainment of the Big Four’s manufacturing agenda while creating avenues for employment opportunities for thousands of youth along the waste management value chain.

Parting shot …

“The issue of sustainability in any region of the world must be analyzed in context. In Kenya today, we lack access to safe drinking water, even in areas with potable supply, the water is unsafe for human consumption. Thus, the discussion on sustainability around glass versus plastic PET bottles need to be analyzed in context – affordability, the sanctity of the product, cost of production, environmental footprint, recycling capacity in-country. You find PET bottles out run glass on each front.”- Gathoni.

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