Help Prevent PET Waste Pollution

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Faith Temba, KAM PET Sector Officer
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The manufacturing industry has rolled out a take back scheme which involves collecting the waste bottles and selling them for recycling

When you look at the environment there is a lot of PET that can be seen lying around. The reason for this naturally you will note is what is called post-consumer PET. One may wonder, what is this PET? It is a type of plastic known as Polyethylene Terephthalate particularly used for packaging of drinks and in the pharmaceutical industry. The reason why the industry uses PET for these types of products is because PET is shutter proof, light in weight, transparent and can be colored. It is a very versatile material which is cheap in the essence that as an industry player you would want package your goods in something that is competitive.

PET in the factory is well maintained since there are industry players who are able to recycle it inside their factories. It is used to package water, soft and carbonated drinks. You find that after consuming the contents in the PET bottle, consumers tend toss the empty bottles in the environment causing littering. On the world environment day, a special focus was placed on plastics and PET. Stake holders in the industry are coming together to find ways in order to manage that post-consumer PET that is in the environment.

Established in 1959 as a private sector body, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has evolved into a dynamic, vibrant, credible and respected business association that unites industrialists and offers a common voice for businesses. Within KAM there is the environmental committee headed by one of the KAM Directors. KAM encourages its members to practice environmental principals by taking into account use of labels and safe disposal of the waste they reduce on their industries. At KAM they have two main programs; Responsible Care which is an international standard that focuses on chemical waste and the UN Global Compact. KAM holds the secretariat for Global Compact and it rallies members and ensures that they practice the 17 sustainable development goals.

What initiatives has KAM taken in regards to PET and its environmental impact?

KAM PET Sector Officer, Faith Temba says that, “As KAM we do recognize there is a problem, there is a lot of PET in the environment. What we have done is that we have formed a sub-sector in KAM which incorporates the producers, manufacturers, the bottlers and the recyclers.” All parties involved have come together and work towards sustainable management of PET.

What people may not appreciate is that PET is 100% recyclable and in fact, it is the most recyclable plastic in the world. There is huge potential in Kenya; some may see it as mere PET in the pit but at KAM, they see it as a resource. There are players in Kenya who are starting up and have already begun initiatives around production of tiles that used at homes since they are made from PET.

KAM has signed a frame work agreement with the Ministry of Environment and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) showing their commitment to this issue of PET. Within the stipulated frame work, the association has to support the recycling through the take back and extended producer responsibility. This means it will rally its members to provide financing on extra levy that will go to identified recyclers in order to ensure that there is a value for the waste been retailed.

“You might notice that the hard plastics, the HDP yellow in color are not littered around on the environment. This is because people don’t drink edible oils. It might also be because these kinds of plastics have more value.” Mrs. Temba conveys. The association wants to get PET to that place where a recycler will not leave it in the environment but will have people collecting and taking it to the right place

Reuse or Dispose off properly

“Plastic is a brilliant material and I daring say we use it all the time with or without knowing it, from our tooth brushes, knives and cutleries. We can’t do without plastic,” she remarks. The problem is not the plastic, the problem is you and me, the problem is the system we have here. The issue is, what do we do at the point of disposal? Kenyans should ensure that if you are one of those people who throw your PET bottles on the road side, that is something that KAM is trying to discourage.

It’s part of the activities that the association has been doing together with the Ministry of Environment and NEMA. They want to strongly discourage the littering of not only plastics but also other products. When mishandled, PET may be destructive to the environment like causing blockage of sewer pipes. Kenyans should desist from littering the environment.

Culture plays a significant role and that is why, one of the key things KAM wants to do apart from supporting is to engage in behavioral change. This will be geared in positively impacting the next generation of Kenya to care about the environment. Culture should realize that PET is a resource and not waste so we need to rally and ensure Kenyans get that message.

The County Governments have a role to play and are mandated to take lead in the management of waste. KAM comes in because this issue is big hence it is forming extended produced service possibilities. The industry players are taking their responsibility for the PET waste to the post-consumer stage. Normally the industry player would only be concerned in a sense about the waste within their industry and out, but ones it goes to municipal solid waste then at that point the county government is responsible.

But the industry players are extending their responsibility of the waste in terms of establishing, take back schemes and EPR schemes. There will be a go between the industry and recyclers because recyclers are the ones who have solution to the waste management issue. The EPR entity will be collecting levy from industries and using that to identify recyclers and financing them.

Sensitizing the public is the start in ensuring that there is behavior change. People should start to see PET as a resource and stop discarding it in the wrong places as well as just bringing in new partnership together towards providing the areas of disposal. Mrs. Temba concludes by saying that “We also wish to partner with the matatu industry where we have people in buses taking this drinks and throwing bottles you know out, of matatus. What roles can matatus play in supporting this initiative? You find that the pollution happens on the go.”

Plastic is a good product and we should not demonize it. We do recognize that there is a problem and there are solutions for it. PET is a 100% recyclable and a resource on its own. Take a look at developed countries and see what they have done like in South Africa there are very robust mechanisms through which PET has been managed. It is time for us Kenyans to look at plastic in a different way and to rally behind industries and recyclers in providing a solution to this.

 

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