Ofafa Jericho, one of the oldest estates in Nairobi, is fast becoming a showcase for what the concept of circular economy means to humanity.
Yet it is not one of those places where you would expect any form of innovation.
A new computer lab which also serves as a library has been built in the estate through recycled materials, exemplifying the concept of the circular economy.
The lab was built by global software giant SAP in partnership with Junior Achievement (Kenya’s largest and fastest growing non-profit organisation with a mission of inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy) and their contractor Funkidz (a local furniture manufacturer).
Their effort has shown that the practice of make, use and dispose can be changed to make, use and re-use to minimise the amount of solid waste on our planet threatening our ecology.
This is goal number 12 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although we are supposed to achieve this goal by 2030, it is among those we often forget.
According to research done by the World Bank, the world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day, 10 times the amount generated a century ago.
In Kenya, Nairobi city alone produces approximately 3,000 tons of solid waste daily. Very little of this waste is sorted and re-cycled into new products or for energy production.
Although SAP did not provide any detailed instructions on the project they were sponsoring, their client’s brief was to design and furnish an inspiring, funky, trendy computer lab and library that will also be the room Junior Achievement Club would use to teach entrepreneurship.
Funkidz, the contractor, suggested use of their old office furniture, equipment, and computers to carry out the project and develop a completely different space from traditional library and computer labs.
They set out to create a space that inspires, and does not intimidate. A space where even the furniture is a lesson and a discussion piece. They simply wanted to give the students an experiential room, that would inspire them to be out-of-the-box thinkers and hopefully create the spark they need for that.
The project turnaround time from first communication to final installation was two weeks, so not much of a write up was done. As interior architects, Funkidz were able to design, build and fit out using their factory in Kikuyu Town. In three weeks, Ofafa Jericho had a world class computer lab cum library.
It is not by coincidence that users of the new outfit are happy, but studies have shown that brightness of a room indeed affect emotions positively in most cases. But more importantly is the fact that more was achieved by recycling materials and providing an inviting environment for young people to study in.
The works at the lab demonstrate that if we sorted out garbage, we could re-use it to create new products as a strategy of fostering good solid waste management.
When we created the Vision 2030, solid waste management was one of the flagship projects. It envisioned the relocation of the Dandora dumpsite and development of solid management waste systems in five municipalities across the country. That aspect of the vision has either not been achieved or been forgotten all together.
We can create value out of waste. In a world where big data will dictate the future, it makes sense to note down the sorted garbage to determine the kind of products consumed in different parts of the city and in order to inform manufacturers of their market share. This is already happening but on a small scale.
Once garbage has been sorted, it can be turned into products that organisations, individuals and communities can re-use as can now be seen in Jericho.
Most cities across the world have adopted the concept of eco-cities to deal with solid waste management from a holistic point of view.
The World Bank defines eco-cities as ”cities that enhance the well-being of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that harness the benefits of ecological systems and protect and nurture these assets for future generations”.
We have every reason in looking to achieve goal 12 of the SDGs that we committed to achieving. With that, we shall enabled the well-being of our citizens.
The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business.@bantigito