Mbirikani is a typical rural Kenyan village with a small assortment of shops along a single avenue, and a population of only around 200, yet these photos show just how much plastic waste this tiny community produces in just under six months.
Like much of rural Kenya, there is no formal rubbish collection here. Everything from plastic bags, bottles, and clothes gets discarded out in the open. Plastic bags and wrapping get caught in bushes and trees and the rest can be seen almost everywhere. While some gets burned, this does little to put a dent in the ceaseless stream of waste.
Single use plastic bags were banned in Kenya several years ago, which definitely helped the situation, but has not solved waste problems entirely.
As part of Big Life’s community work program started this past summer, local women who would not otherwise have had any income as a result of the drought are being paid a modest amount per week to do jobs like picking and sorting the plastic, glass, and metal waste from where they live for recycling. They have also been digging bunds – small, semi-circular 1m x 2m pits that capture rainwater and encourage rangeland restoration.
These women spent almost a week sorting plastic into various categories before it was collected by the Tsavo Heritage Foundation and taken to be recycled in Nairobi. This is a promising new collaboration and one of the first tentative steps towards addressing one of the biggest problems affecting Kenya’s rural areas.