JICA and JKUAT in a Bid to Streamline Plastic Recycling in Kenya

Kenya, like many other countries, continue to struggle with the largely unregulated consumption and disposal of plastic bottles. According to a beverage manufacturer’s survey, the country produces 40,000 tons of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles annually, a number that is projected to increase exponentially every year. The recycling rate on the other hand remains at a paltry 20%.

With the disposal of plastic bottles often mismanaged, used PET bottles dumped as garbage either end up in landfills, clogging sewage pipes, increasing flood damage in urban areas, air pollution when burnt, and when subjected to the coastline, polluting water bodies and choking marine life.

Kenya envisions by 2030 to have a clean and safe environment through dissemination of waste management and appropriate sanitation facilities. This vision however, is not yet backed by sufficient regulations and recycling laws or systems.

It is against this backdrop, that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), through its Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET), and Japan-based Tobe Shoji Company Limited are working towards the establishment of a recycling plant in the University for used PET bottles.

Dubbed “SDGs Business Verification Survey with the Private Sector for Development of Material Recycle of Used Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Bottles in Kenya”, the initiative, according to JICA’s Emi Kurita, is being implemented under JICA’s public-private partnership programmes to verify technologies that may respond effectively to specific development challenges. Ms. Kurita is a Project Formulation Advisor, with a focus on Private Sector Partnership.

Speaking, Wednesday June 30, 2021 during the signing of the survey framework agreement with the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Prof. Robert Kinyua, Ms. Kurita elaborated that activities of private companies and private-sector financing are becoming an increasingly critical part of economic growth, sustainable development, and poverty eradication in partner countries.

Prof. Kinyua (Left) confers with Ms. Emi Kurita after signing the Survey agreement.

Tobe Shoji Company Limited is the biggest recycling company in Tokyo, Japan, and has been in existence for over 100 years. In order to contribute to the promotion of recycling PET resources in Kenya, the survey to be conducted by the three partners will seek to verify the usefulness and applicability of the company’s technology in Kenya.

The technology entails used PET bottle sorting, washing, and granulation system, resulting into high-value PET pellets as a raw material for products. The high-quality PET pellets can be produced efficiently by use of equipment that utilizes several patented technologies of Tobe Shoji. The survey will then seek to confirm the possibility of establishing a supply chain between existing used PET bottle flake processors and plastic product manufacturers in Kenya.

According to Acting Director, Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET), Dr. Paul Njogu, the PET flake washing and granulation equipment is expected to be installed by end of 2021, effectively setting the stage for a major policy influence on recycling and waste management in Kenya.

“In Japan, recycling of PET bottles is at nearly 90%, and it would be great if that can be replicated in Kenya. We hope to introduce the technology into the Kenyan market, localize it, and come up with a sustainable domestic solution. This will revolutionize plastic waste management, and see manufacturers in the country significantly cut the import of virgin plastic materials,” intimated Dr. Njogu.

The initiative will also work with the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya PET Recycling Company (PETCO) in the development of quality standards and dissemination methods for recycled PET pellets.

Under the Survey Framework, JKUAT will research on technologies and policies for the promotion of recycling and make recommendations to relevant organizations in Kenya. The University will also conduct public demonstrations using the installed equipment, and hold public lectures to raise awareness on recycled PET pellets.

Prof. Kinyua and Ms. Kurita display the agreement document, flanked by Mr. Kariuki (left), Dr. Njogu (right), and Ms. Njoki.

Prof. Kinyua opines that the initiative is yet another landmark step in the University’s long-running partnership with JICA, citing that University-Industry linkage is a core mandate of JKUAT as a research institution.

“Through this initiative, we shall avail unlimited opportunities to our students and staff for training, capacity building, and research. There will also be the critical component of technology transfer, positively acting on climate change, and the critical contribution to our country’s pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The Survey will take an initial duration of two years and three months, and will target and benefit Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu, Kajiado, Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu counties. After implementation of the Survey, the plant shall be handed over and transferred to JKUAT for further operation and maintenance. Also present during the meeting was JICA’s Ms. Jacquiline Njoki and Mr. Simon Kariuki.

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