Leadership, News

How Baby Diapers Can Kick Start Kenya’s Economic Transformation

We can make mon­ey, cre­ate jobs and lift our econ­o­my through dis­pos­able dia­pers. Yes, those smelly dia­pers! The use­ful­ness of dia­pers does not have to end after the baby is done with them. This is exact­ly what a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my entails. As apt­ly described by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my encour­ages main­tain­ing the val­ue of prod­ucts, mate­ri­als, and resources for as long as pos­si­ble by return­ing them back to the prod­uct cycle at the end of their use, and min­i­miz­ing the gen­er­a­tion of waste.

I just returned from a crush pro­gram spe­cial­iza­tion Course at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Copen­hagen where I rep­re­sent­ed the Kenya Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers sup­port­ed by The Dan­ish Gov­ern­ment. This lead­er­ship course led by Prof. Maj Ander­son was about strate­giz­ing for the Green and Cir­cu­lar Econ­o­my. Togeth­er with me were dis­tin­guished Kenyans name­ly Tobias Alan­do, Hen­ry Ochieng, Car­o­line Kun­gu, Fredrick Muk­abi, and Vic­tor Ken­ga. Our Kenyan team pre­pared var­i­ous strik­ing pre­sen­ta­tions on the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my one of which focused on an inno­v­a­tive approach toward dis­pos­able dia­per management. 

At the heart of this pre­sen­ta­tion, we shared crit­i­cal cir­cu­lar econ­o­my insights that can change the way Kenyans relate to dis­pos­able dia­pers as we cre­ate jobs.

Let me empha­size that the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my approach is a very prof­itable one. Accord­ing to a study by McK­in­sey, by 2030 cir­cu­lar econ­o­my could boost Europe’s resource pro­duc­tiv­i­ty by 3 per­cent. This will save Europe Sh73.6 Tril­lion per year and Tril­lions more in addi­tion­al eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits. What is true for Europe is true for Kenya.

Child Pop­u­la­tion in Kenya is 53%. That is antic­i­pat­ed, con­sid­er­ing that Kenya sees an aver­age of 5,500 births dai­ly. Report­ed­ly, the aver­age baby uses as many as 7,000 dia­pers in their life­time. Con­se­quent­ly, there is a moun­tain of dis­pos­able dia­pers accu­mu­lat­ing in our land­fills dai­ly. Glob­al­ly, 20 bil­lion dia­pers are esti­mat­ed to end up in land­fills annu­al­ly. Mil­lions of oth­ers are incin­er­at­ed. Nei­ther of this waste man­age­ment options is sus­tain­able. Land fill­ing results in an array of prob­lems like water pol­lu­tion, odor and methane emis­sions. On its part, incin­er­a­tion uses a lot of ener­gy and releas­es harm­ful gas­es into the atmos­phere. That’s why we need a dif­fer­ent approach.

This year, the glob­al dia­per mar­ket is pre­dict­ed to exceed Sh8.2 Tril­lion. How­ev­er, these stag­ger­ing prof­its come at a huge cost to the envi­ron­ment. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for Kenya because we are already strug­gling with sol­id waste man­age­ment. Accord­ing to the Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment, Kenya pro­duces about 8 mil­lion tons of waste annu­al­ly. Report­ed­ly, 800 mil­lion dia­pers are cast-off in Kenya annu­al­ly. Since these dia­pers take about 400 years to decom­pose, we must deploy social inno­va­tion in tack­ling this chal­lenge start­ing with a prac­ti­cal part­ner­ship with the ini­tial pro­duc­ers to cre­ate a col­lec­tion chain lead­ing to upcycling. 

Dis­pos­able dia­pers con­tain fiber that can be har­vest­ed and chan­neled into mul­ti­ple uses. The start­ing point towards this is a reward sys­tem for the col­lec­tion and deliv­ery of mate­ri­als from the house­holds to a pro­cess­ing cen­ter. This fiber will then be used to pro­duce a vari­ety of prod­ucts includ­ing rein­forced con­crete, shop­ping bags, or even fur­nace for fac­to­ries as the tech­nol­o­gy pos­si­bil­i­ties advance. There­in lies the jobs.

Con­sid­er­ing that Kenya’s con­struc­tion sec­tor is a mul­ti-mil­lion shilling indus­try, insert­ing dia­per fibers into the con­struc­tion val­ue chain will go a long way in com­plet­ing the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my of diapers. 

Against this back­drop, it is evi­dent that we can infuse val­ue into used dis­pos­able dia­pers. Train­ing of youth will lead to the elim­i­na­tion of exist­ing cur­tails in this sec­tor and a sys­temic change in our waste man­age­ment, espe­cial­ly as regards dis­pos­able dia­pers. The coun­ty gov­ern­ment should insti­tute sym­bi­ot­ic Pub­lic-Pri­vate Part­ner­ships for the col­lec­tion, sort­ing, and trans­port­ing of dia­pers to pro­cess­ing plants. Before that can even hap­pen, these plants must be set up through the same partnerships. 

Even more impor­tant than these crit­i­cal actions should be a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my upris­ing amongst ordi­nary Kenyans. If fifty mil­lion Kenyans begin embrac­ing waste and find­ing ways of infus­ing it into its val­ue, we will replen­ish not just our envi­ron­ment, but our econ­o­my. Think green, Act green.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

Here Are Five Lessons That We Can Learn from the Late President Kibaki

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Wow this is wonderful.i do clean­ing services,can this real­ly come into start will real­ly be a good boost to clean­ing indus­try and make up more fam­i­lies into being able to use the dia­pers upto vil­lage level


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed