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Plastic pays

Refugees can make a living out of plastic collection in Nairobi.

Posted on 13 Sep 2022

33-year-old Rukundo came to Kenya in June 2019 after running away from the ravages of war in his native Burundi. Upon arriving in Kenya, a friend hosted Rukundo for 6 months while he sought a job to sustain himself. He was hired as a security guard in September 2019 and still holds the position today. Rukundo also enrolled as a trainee in the Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) Fair Recycling project, funded by the Danida Market Development Partnership. The Fair Recycling project began in July 2021 and targets both the host communities and refugees living in Nairobi.

In March 2022, DRC held a set of community forums about the Fair Recycling project. Rukundo joined and undertook training on standard operating procedures from DRC and Mr. Green Africa (MGA). The trainings enlightened the participants on the objective of the project, the value of plastics, required plastics, tips to acquire plastics, and pricing. DRC also sensitized the trainees on gender-based violence and reporting mechanisms, child labor, challenges in handling plastics, and how to overcome health hazards.

Rukundo was inspired to venture into the plastic collection business since he saw a big opportunity to enhance his income. As a refugee with limited job opportunities and challenges relating to documentation, he was very interested in trying the plastic value chain.

Within one week, he was able to collect 46kg of plastic, which he sold to an MGA collection agent in Kawangware, earning him KES 1,104 (€9.20). He was then able to purchase cooking oil and maize flour with his earnings. In addition, he was given a DRC-MGA client registration card and a packaging sack for his products, which has been a motivation for him to continue in the business.

As Rukundo continues with the Fair Recycling project, he will have the opportunity to pass through the project’s four different tiers. In as little as three months, he can transition from plastic picker to collection agent, enjoying an associated increase in income and stability.

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