A Nairobi slum group associated with rapper Juliani is moving to install a thousand waste collection kiosks by mid-next year, opening up 10,000 jobs opportunities for unemployed youths.
The group’s Taka Bank kiosks serve as collection stations for waste in Nairobi’s informal settlements having started out in Dandora before spreading to Dagoretti, Huruma and Korogocho on the city outskirts. The trash is then sorted for recycling.
Each kiosk is manned by 10 youths who hand over the segregated waste, paper, glass, tin and plastics, to recycling companies at a fee.
“Currently, we have an army of 260 youths in this project with 26 taka banks. Hopefully by June 2021, we want to have 1,000 kiosks spread across the country, and requiring 10,000 pair of hands,” the group’s youth coordinator Kennedy Otieno said when we paid them a visit in Dandora.
To make it convenient for city households, rapper Juliani partnered with software developer Griffin Kisia to develop Taka online portal known as Customer Bora (www.customerbora.co.ke).
Homes can request on their phones to have their garbage collected at a fee.
Alternatively, homes can ask on their mobile phones to deposit their waste in the taka banks themselves, a highly encouraged option. A group of youth stationed at the kiosks then verifies the waste declared by the portal user. This is because homes are rewarded with giveaways like packets of sifted maize flour, based on their accumulated points, if they deliver the waste themselves. It’s meant to encourage responsible behaviour and instill a sense of discipline among city dwellers.
All that a user has to do is create an online account, using their phone number or email address.
“As a way of instilling responsible behavior, we want you as the consumer to take the initiative of collecting and bringing the waste to the nearest taka bank. That’s why we want taka banks to be everywhere,” said Otieno.
Event organisers can also use ‘Taka Express’ to request garbage collection. Then the group sends its members to collect, sort and transport the trash at a fee.
Most neighbourhoods around Nairobi are choking with mountains of filthy garbage as the existing waste disposal infrastructure remains rickety.
Rising garbage is driven by global economic growth, which comes with increased consumerism. And as lifestyles get more modern and middle class with disposable incomes swell, the higher the volume of waste households individually generate.
Homes earn five points for every waste deposit they make at taka kiosks, mostly branded used plastic, glass bottles, cans and tins.
The points are redeemable.
For example, if you have 250 points, you can get a packet of sifted maize flour. Also through the online Taka wallet, one can redeem phones, ornaments made from trash such as hangers or lamps made by youth groups, electronics and clothes.
Otieno says that as a result of the youth-led initiative, Dandora and a few other informal neighbourhoods have received a facelift, with garbage eyesores all but disappeared.
“It has made the environment around Dandora and several others settlements cleaner, better and healthier,” he said.
“It has also instilled in the people a sense of responsibility, in the sense that you can’t find residents of this area discarding trash haphazardly.”
While starting out in December 2018, Otieno says that their first task was to conduct awareness and sensitization campaign in the Dandora neighbourhood, a drive that bought in the community.
The taka bank is among social impact initiatives steered by Juliani’s Dandora Hip Hop City meant to put slum talent to good use.
Besides environment clean-up, the recycling aspect is spurring a circular economy of responsible consumers and manufacturers.
The group keeps a record of the most popular brands in the informal settlements, as measured by the waste that ends up in their collection kiosks.
According to the records, Latto milk takes the first position as the most used brand in the neighbourhood, followed by Omo with Sunlight soap coming in third. Airtime scratch cards follow next.
“These are the ones we term as top polluters of this area,” said Otieno.
“It’s precisely why we call upon brand owners and producers to come on board we work together. We can’t talk of managing waste effectively and yet all stakeholders across the chain are not united. We’ve realised what we lack as a country is the unity of purpose among stakeholders.”
The young man says that aside from promoting responsible consumer behaviour, the project is equally keen to encourage producer responsibility.
He says the challenge remains inspiring consumer behaviour change among more households and bringing on board producers. Last year, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) inked a partnership deal with the group to promote a circular economy through recycling, led by industrialists.
Also, he says the group is grappling with low payments recycling companies are willing to offer for the sorted waste, terming the payouts hardly commensurate with the youths’ efforts.
“Therefore we call upon the top polluters because it’s incumbent upon us all to help our society in managing waste. As we all know waste has become a menace in the country. What has been lacking is producer responsibility.”
“Brand owners, and any company that’s doing packaging should be mindful of where their packages are going to end up and put in place measures to ensure seamless reuse and recycling, essentially creating a circular economy,” Otieno signs off our interview.