Advancing a circular economy for plastics in Africa: Dow and Mr. Green Africa expand partnership to tackle plastic waste in Kenya11 January 2021
Dow (NYSE: DOW) is today announcing the extension of its partnership with innovative recycling company, Mr. Green Africa, to help fight the plastic waste challenge in Kenya and advance a circular economy for plastics in Africa.
The partnership was officially launched in November 2019 during Dow’s Project Butterfly™ event in Nairobi, Kenya to raise awareness of the plastic waste issue, influence positive behavior and invest in solutions in waste disposal and recycling initiatives.
The collaboration has so far enabled Dow and Mr. Green Africa to drive positive change in communities in Kenya where a lack of waste infrastructure has led to plastic waste ending up in rivers and informal dumps, as well as creating a market for flexible plastic packaging which has enabled an additional source of income for workers in the informal waste sector.
By incentivizing waste pickers with a higher, stable income and establishing sorting centers that allow waste pickers to bring plastic waste in for payment, and then enabling this waste to be processed in recycling centers, the partnership has not only created a new market for flexible plastic waste, it has made sorting materials more effective in the region. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 30 Metric Tons (MT) of flexible plastic waste - which would not have been collected previously as it is deemed harder to recycle due to it being a more complex material than rigid plastic - is now processed through Dow and Mr. Green Africa’s waste stream every 2 months in Kenya.
The second phase of the partnership marks an important advancement in ending the inequalities in recycling infrastructure in Kenya and will see Dow and Mr. Green Africa look to bring on a brand owner partner to close the loop, by enabling the use of the recyclable flexible packaging in a new packaging application and the unrecyclable portions in innovative end-uses.
Additionally, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project pivoted to using technology to enable residential collection via a brand-new app which has been developed by Dow’s technical team and is being deployed locally by Mr. Green Africa. Through the app, consumers can sort and separate the plastic waste in their homes more effectively, before scheduling it to be collected by Mr. Green Africa from their doorstep who will then process it through the plastic recycling system. The app has been successfully piloted in several households in Nairobi, so far, with plans to roll it out further in 2021.
Adwoa Coleman, Dow’s Africa Sustainability and Advocacy Manager for Packaging and Specialty Plastics commented: “Dow is working in partnership with communities in Kenya to empower local people to help to tackle the plastic waste challenge. We strongly believe that plastic is too valuable a resource to be thrown away or lost to landfill. And by taking a leadership role and collaborating with organisations like Mr. Green Africa, that are already supporting local waste management infrastructure, we can make significant strides in addressing the plastics challenge in Africa.
“We are delighted to have extended this partnership and excited for our future collaborations in Kenya and beyond. By helping ensure we move towards a circular economy for plastics we can move to a world in which the practical and social benefits of plastic are matched by its environmental performance.”
Kieran Smith, CEO and co-founder of Mr. Green Africa, added: “Ensuring a circular economy for plastics requires the entire waste recovery value chain to work together, and we are pleased to have the continued support from Dow to ensure we can continue working towards our shared vision for Kenya and the wider continent, to resolve the plastic waste issue.”
This partnership is aligned to Dow’s global STOP THE WASTE sustainability target which will enable the collection, reuse or recycling of one million metric tons of plastic globally by 2030. Dow is also committed to closing the loop on plastic waste, with a target to enable all its products sold into packaging applications to be reusable or recyclable by 2035.
By 2025, across sub-Saharan Africa, Dow aims to recover at least 5,000 metric tons of plastic waste annually; have flexible packaging included in the recyclable waste stream - not just rigids and PET which are used to make used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, clothing and carpet fiber and are easily recognizable to waste pickers - and take valuable waste plastic back and recycle it to use in new applications, giving it a second life.