Kingston, Eric and recycled plastic #perouskenya

Posted by Amy Christian Stories, Film and Photography Project Manager

11th Aug 2013

Today we visited a different part of Mukuru, an area called Kingston. We went to meet Eric, a youth group leader and operations manager of an Oxfam-funded recycling plant.  I was struck by Eric's passion for the project and its goals, how much he cares about cleaning up his community space and educating other young people. He has worked at the project since it begun and is clearly full of energy and enthusiasm to keep it going into the future.

As we arrived in Kingston, situated just across the river from Rueben where we had spent our time up until now, I was surprised to find it seemed very different. I realised that I had become quite familiar with Rueben and expected all of Mukuru to have the same feel to it. It doesn't. The streets seemed a little wider and the vibe a little more intense.

Eric met us with a big smile and walked us down the road to the recycling centre, located in the middle of Kingston alongside a vocational training centre for young people.  As we walked through the gates of the centre it felt like an oasis of calm inside Kingston, the buildings surrounding a lovely grass area lined with small trees and bushes. The walls of the buildings painted with murals indicating what goes on inside them, hair and beauty training in one, catering in another. The recycling plant sits in the far corner shaded by overhanging trees.

I was struck by Eric's passion for the project and its goals, how much he cares about cleaning up his community space and educating other young people.

Eric showed us the recycling machines, the charts they use to monitor how much waste is being processed and from where it is coming and the big bags of plastics piled high in the end room.

"We process two tons of recycling a day," Eric told us. "We can take in three different sorts of plastics and anything else can be sold on to another company. When we opened the centre in 2006 we had 12 youth groups working here, now we have 21. The youth groups collect the plastics from various parts of Mukuru -they each have an area that they focus on, usually the one they live in. The bags of plastic are brought here and they are paid 25 Kenyan shillings per bag. Youth group members then work at the centre processing the plastics. They are separated out into three different types and then broken down into small pieces using the machines. The pieces of plastic are then sold to another company to be melted down and re used for 40 Kenyan shillings per bag."

I asked Eric if he felt the project had had an impact on his community and he explained to me how bad the sanitation and waste problems were before the project started. "Now when you walk through Kingston and the other surrounding areas you see a lot of waste, lots of plastic and rubbish and even human faeces. But things are much better here now than they used to be. Each member of the youth groups collect around 100kg of plastics a day which has made a big difference to the amount you see on the streets. They also collect waste directly from people's homes, preventing people from just putting it on the road and by the river, which is their only other alternative. There is nowhere for people to put their waste here in Mukuru. Our groups have also become aware of their environment and have started taking care of their surroundings in other ways too. We have painted signs in the community discouraging flying toilets (poo in plastic bags) for example and this has really helped to stop it from happening."

 "We have seen a really big improvement in this area since this project began and we hope to expand it and help other communities do the same. We still have a lot of challenges, like transport, to overcome but we are getting there. This year the project will be handed to us and our youth groups to run ourselves and we have big plans for the future."

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Blog post written by Amy Christian

Stories, Film and Photography Project Manager

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