Upcycling helps cut plastic pollution in Nairobi

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. scores / skɔrs / (n.) – a lot of people or things

    The company received scores of orders after the launch of its latest product.

  2. collective / kəˈlɛk tɪv / (n.) – a company or organization where the workers or members are the owners

    The collective decided to expand its business in other countries.

  3. take matters into (your) own hands / teɪk ˈmæt ərs ˈɪn tu oʊn hænds / (idiom) – to solve an issue on one’s own since those who should have done so have failed to do so

    After months of waiting for the police to catch the criminal, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

  4. viable / ˈvaɪ ə bəl / (adj.) – able to be used, done, or succeed

    The last group presented the most viable solution to the problem.

  5. upcycle / ˈʌpˌsaɪ kəl / (v.) – to build new furniture, products, or items out of old or waste items making them valuable

    He upcycles old kettles into lamps as a hobby.


Read the text below.

At Dandora dumpsite, Kenya’s largest rubbish dump, scores of people pick through 2,000 tons of waste a day, looking to resell recyclable items. Now a local collective is taking matters into its own hands to help reduce plastic waste pollution.

People scavenge through the rubbish, collecting plastics which they then sell to recyclers. A kilo of recyclable plastic will earn the collectors 17 Kenyan shillings – that’s $0.17.

Eunice Achieng has been working at the dumpsite for five years. The 25-year-old single mother of two earns around $3 a day to help support her family. She says working at the site is affecting her health, but she has no other choice.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned that the Dandora dump has posed a serious health threat to those working and living nearby as far back as 2007. Kenya’s largest dumpsite opened in 1975 and was declared full by public health officials in 2001. It is still in use over two decades later despite a 2021 court ruling ordering its closure within six months.

The dump receives over 2,000 tons of waste a day, making it the most viable working site for waste pickers to find plastics and other items that can be recycled. But much of the waste still ends up on the streets and in sewerage systems.

Now, a community-based organization called Kibarazani Cocktail is attempting to help relieve the problem. Founded by Kenneth Ochieng, Kibarazani Cocktail collects plastics from dumpsites and upcycles them into household products. A group of 15 volunteers collects plastics from their neighborhoods or buys them when there is a shortage. The finished products are sold at a profit.

“Plastic pollution has become a bigger problem in our society. People used to throw garbage everywhere and these plastics blocked our drainage and the environment. So we have come up with the initiative that we collect the plastic bottles and recycle them into a different product that we add value to them. Like these seats, sofa sets and flower vases and the skipping ropes and even shades and other things we can do from it,” explains Ochieng.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Dandora dumpsite is still in use over two decades after a 2021 court ruling ordered its closure. Why do you think the government cannot implement the court ruling? Discuss.
  • Do you think the government should be punished for not implementing the court ruling? Do you think the UN should take matters into its own hands and give a penalty to the Kenyan government? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Would you like to try upcycling? Why or why not? If you could upcycle plastics into a household product, what product would you create? Discuss.
  • Aside from plastics, what other materials do you think can be upcycled (ex. metal, rubber)? Do you think people in your country would be encouraged to buy upcycled products? Why or why not? Discuss.