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Creating wealth out of waste

Emmanuel Mbaji’s love for the environment saw him establish a social enterprise that helps him eke out a living out of recycled plastic materials

Barry Silah @obel_barry

For 30-year-old Emmanuel Mbaji, the eyesore of garbage in Mombasa back in the day propelled him to make a difference and in turn be creative.

Fast forward to 2016, Mbaji, who describes himself as an Environmental Cop, founded Takkazi; an acronym which translated from Swahili stands for Garbage and Work. The community-based organisation, that is in Rabai Mkapuni in Kilifi county, is responsible for collecting, sorting and managing waste for economic purposes.

Takkazi basically focuses on recycling plastic waste and their main purpose is to create employment. So far, the organisation has employed three ladies to help with the sorting and crushing of the collected waste before storing it in sacks and transporting it to Mombasa and Nairobi where there are ready markets.

Water bottles

“We source our waste from dump sites and do our pre-sorting before transporting the same to our yard. In a day, we can handle one tonne of high density polythene but initially we handled polyethylene terephalate (PET) water, soda and juice bottles.

We own a shredder that helps break down the waste after sorting,” says Mbaji who grew up in Mishomoroni area of Mombasa county. He initially worked in the dock and got concerned with the amount of waste in the area. In 2014, he got employment in Nairobi by Takataka Solutions but his sojourn was short-lived because he did not share their approach.

Takkazi has so far handled more than 100 tonnes of plastic, which converts into 5,000 kilos of carbon monoxide. Mbaji says that they have added a lot of value to the ecosystem through their model.

“We have managed to reduce pollution since plastics take years to decompose. Plastics find its way to food, animals and environment, so recycling is the best way to go,” he adds.

The capital capacity of buying materials is still limited for Takkazi which means they handle only one tonne weekly instead of the projected 15 tonnes monthly.

However, the market is available and they do sell Sh35 per kilo on average. The group is working on managing demands, especially in the entire value chain.

Over time, according to Mbaji, waste management is being embraced by different stakeholders because of the demand.

“Many organisations are now coming up with policies to address the issue. Importantly, youth are getting employment by taking care of their surroundings. At Takkazi, we are looking forward to processing at least five tonnes a day,” says Mbaji.

Takkazi, a social enterprise, has a rich sustainable model.

They sell their waste products to keep the cycle going. In 2016, they got a $4,000 (Sh400,000) grant from Pollination Product in USA plus partners in Switzerland and India to keep their project running. Takkazi also partakes trainings in schools and the community to change mindsets on waste management.

Mbaji, who admits to having struggled as a young person to get education, told Green Agenda that his association with waste brought him an opportunity to interact and network with policy enablers.

“The experience has been great. Never did I imagine that Takkazi, in its own small way, could raise heads and create impact. I am officially a waste ambassador and I urge everyone to treat waste as wealth and in the process safeguard our environment,” says Mbaji who has ambition to see his project spread to other parts of the country and educate the masses.

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