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Highlights of the Sustainable Waste Management Act

The Sustainable Waste Management Act, No.31 of 2022, was signed into law on 7th July 2022. It was developed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as a step towards implementation of the Ministry’s National Sustainable Waste Management Policy which came into force in February 2021.

A. Statutory Mandates

The Act divides responsibilities between;

  1. Cabinet Secretary (in-charge of waste management),
  2. Waste Management Council (the Council),
  3. National Environment Management Authority (NEMA),
  4. and County Governments.

The Council is a new entity created by the Act as envisioned by the National Sustainable Waste Management Policy. The Cabinet Secretary is responsible for: policy formulation in consultation with county governments; the development of regulations in consultation with NEMA and the county governments; coordinating adherence to international obligations with regards to ratified conventions; and oversight and co-ordination of the administration of the Act. The Council’s roles are as an advisor to the Cabinet Secretary, intermediary for inter-governmental and inter-county relations as well as resource mobilizer for the Waste Management Sector.

NEMA’s role is to regulate, sensitize the public and enforce legislation in consultation with County governments, issue licenses except where County governments have jurisdiction, conduct research and training on waste management and maintain a national database containing information reflecting the status of waste and waste management in Kenya. They also have the mandate to enforce, monitor, investigate and report on compliance and with this mandate comes the power to enter premises of any private entity and make a n enquiry relating to compliance.

County governments’ functions are to: Establish the financial and operational conditions for devolved waste management; Enact sustainable waste management legislation and align it with the Act; Establish waste recovery facilities, recycling facilities and sanitary landfills for the disposal of recoverable waste; Incentivise the collection and separation of waste at source in neighbourhoods and informal settlements; Ensure that cities plan for waste management facilities as part of city expansion; Prepare a county waste management plan and quarterly monitoring reports for cities, urban areas, municipalities and administrative units; Submit annual reports to NEMA and County Assembly on the implementation of the county waste management plan; and Maintain data on waste management service provision by waste management service providers and share the information at least once a year through the national waste information system to be developed by NEMA.

B. Waste Management for Private Sector Entities and Waste Service Providers 

Private Sector entities are, generally, expected to have 3-year waste management plans and submit annual monitoring reports to NEMA. They are also obligated to identify and eliminate potential negative impacts of their product; enable the recovery and reuse of the product where possible; reclaim and recycle; incorporate environmental concerns in the design, process and disposal of the product as well as collect and segregate hazardous from non-hazardous waste prior to disposal. Disposal should be done in a facility provided by the county government or NEMA.

During disposal, they should transfer the waste to a person licensed to transport and dispose of the waste and clean up and restore the site they were using to its natural state. When it comes to their business premises, they Private Sector entities should provide waste segregation receptacles for organic, plastic and general dry waste.

C. Compliance and Penalties 

Private Sector Entities and Individuals not in compliance with the Act risk fines from Kenya Shillings 20,000 to Kenya Shillings 5,000,000 or more as some are hinged on a percentage of the entities’ net income for the previous tax year. In addition to this, Prison terms range from 3 months to 4 years and in some cases, there is the option for both fines and prison term.

D. Dispute Resolution 

Any person or an entity aggrieved by denial of a license, the imposition of any condition, limitation or restriction on a license granted, any fee payable under the Act or the imposition of a restoration order may, appeal to the National Environment Tribunal. The appeal must be lodged within 60 days from the date the event occurred.

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