In 2005, it was estimated that leading supermarkets in Nairobi gave 1 million plastics bags to their customers, a number that twice done by fast-growing businesses in Kenya’s informal sector. In 2010, more than 24 million plastics bags were used in the East African country monthly, half of which ended up in municipal waste.
Before Kenya introduced the plastic bag ban, most of its urban and peri-urban environment were plastic bag-polluted, a line along which came a variety of health and environmental hazards. A year into the country’s implemented plastic ban now; the country is still putting efforts into what has even been regarded as a successful initiative. Be as that may, plastic pollution continues to be a global threat.
Mr. Green Africa is a Kenyan company into the recycling of plastics. Having designed a human-centered business model that illustrates shared value at its best, the firm incentivizes marginalized waste pickers and bottom-pyramid stakeholders.
Mr. Green Africa offers them premium prices and other benefits for continuously supplying valuable recyclables. Closing two gaps with one bush, this initiative helps tone down poverty and create a more healthy environment.
DOB Equity, keen on supporting companies focusing on waste reduction and recycling, decided to make an unspecified amount of investment in Mr. Green Africa. This development is DOB’s second investment in the sector, before which it backed Zanzibar-based waste management company Zanrec.
Per a statement from the equity firm’s investment director, Saskia van der Mast, it expects the demand for recyclable materials in an emerging market like Kenya to overtake what’s obtainable in developed countries.
“Kenya is a growth market for these companies, as well as the negative effects of plastic packaging being more evident. With its unique sourcing infrastructure and focus on quality, we believe Mr. Green Africa can work together with companies and provide an example for the plastics value chain globally,” she says.
DOB Equity is not alone in this development. The Dutch family-baked impact investor has co-invested with the Global Innovation Fund and Unilever to make this happen for the Nairobi-based recycler and recycled plastics supplier.
Mr. Green Africa, who supplies back raw materials to manufacturers to enable them to meet their circular economic goals, has attracted the right set of investors. In an exclusive with WeeTracker, the company waste management is a huge issue in many emerging markets and Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is no exception. The city produces around 2,400 tonnes a day, of which roughly 60% is collected and only around 10% recycled. The rest is dumped illegally or burned.
“But there’s a group of people who have spotted an opportunity: to collect waste and sell it on. They aren’t employed by anyone. These are marginalised people who are simply trying to scrape together a living to survive. As such, they are routinely exploited by traders who pay them a pittance or don’t buy from them at all.
That’s what we’re trying to address through Mr Green Africa. We see these waste pickers as invisible heroes. They are the ones creating the most value in the whole waste-recycling chain. They are also making a positive contribution to society and the environment”.
Mr Green Africa guarantees pickers a premium price, so they can make a higher, stable income. This means they can help themselves out of poverty and, importantly, regain their dignity.
“We are able to offer a good price because we have an integrated process, which means we bypass the usual traders, sorters and transporters – middlemen who all take a cut along the way.
We benefit by getting a regular supply of recyclable plastic (that’s what we’re concentrating on at the moment), which we process into a valuable raw material. This feeds back into the plastic manufacturers’ supply chain, enabling them and their customers to save costs and achieve their circular economy goals”.
The investment will enable the waste recycler to expand and build on the aggregation model to scale its trade while putting brick and cement together for a reliable supplier network. The funds will help Mr. Green Africa also increase its processing capacity to produce more valuable recycled products to supply consumer goods companies.
On asking the company about expansion, Mr Green Africa said it definitely plans to take its service into other emerging market countries as soon as it hasmade the Kenyan operations more solid and profitable.
An increasing number of international consumer goods companies, including Unilever, have pledged to reduce the impact of their plastic packaging on the environment, by working towards using 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. In Kenya, only 10 percent of plastic waste is currently being recycled.
This story has been updated with details and comments from Mr Green Africa regarding the nature of the investment and nature of operations.
Featured Image: Unilever