- Despite many challenges, the venture has grown to create employment opportunities as well as help keep Kisumu clean.
Leaving the tedious garbage collector’s job at the City Council of Nairobi turned out to be the greatest decision in Jared Okong’o’s life. The decision opened his eyes to the great wealth that lies in waste collection, particularly in recycling plastics.
After a short stint at a plastic recycling plant in Nairobi, in 2010 Mr Okong’o, 35, acquired a site near Kibuye open air market in Kisumu town and recruited garbage collectors from among street children. Despite many challenges, the venture has grown to create employment opportunities as well as help keep Kisumu clean.
“My former boss, who hired me at Premier Industries after I left the city council job, taught me that one can make money from the trade. ‘‘I travelled to Kisumu to seek ways of exploiting the opportunity,” he said.
Mr Okong’o said that he rented land on which he installed electricity and set up a collection centre. “I spent more than Sh200,000 from my savings on the venture and recruited 10 street boys to collect plastic refuse for me.” He pays them Sh15 per kilo of recyclable plastic.
After realising that transporting bulky raw waste all the way to Nairobi for processing was too expensive, Mr Okong’o bought a crusher at Sh800,000.
“Over time it became difficult to hire vehicles to transport raw materials to Nairobi. I made losses from rejected products, too, so I decided to buy a crusher which has enabled me to save on space for storage and make money.” He now packs the waste in guinea bags which are transported to plants in Nairobi’s Industrial Area and processed into buckets, troughs, water tanks and other products.
He now employs more than 20 people at his yard. “I have also recruited agents in some parts of Kisumu, Kakamega, Luanda, Kisii, Kericho and Oyugis towns. Each collects more than a tonne of raw plastics per day,” he told the Business Daily.
Kisumu town has turned out to be a viable centre for Mr Okong’o’s venture since its high population has boosted consumption of items bottled in the raw materials that drive his trade. He plans to acquire a larger piece of land and expand his business.
“I am ready for expansion. With bigger space, I can set up a recycling plant with more sophisticated machinery,” he said. He crushes more than 40 tonnes of plastic per month which is sold to various companies in Nairobi and Kisumu.
Unstable demand and poor payment by companies are some of the challenges he faces. Mr Okong’o said that his monthly salary is between Sh30,000 and Sh40,000. “The venture has enabled me to pay school fees and maintain three of my siblings in secondary school. I hope bank lending rates will come down so small scale traders like me can access to loans and expand.”
He also complained that small enterprises were yet to benefit from government programmes such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund. The money should be given to traders, he said, adding that the requirement that entrepreneurs should seek loans through groups was a stumbling block.
Members of the National Assembly’s Committee on Implementation, while on a visit to his yard in August, urged Mr Okong’o to seek funds from alternative lenders.
Think outside the box
“We ask young people who are engaged in entrepreneurship to think outside the box while seeking money to grow their businesses,” said Mr David Gikaria, vice chairman of the committee, when it visited Kisumu on a fact finding mission on challenges to waste management.
Mr Gikaria said that creating a suitable environment for doing business was key to expanding job opportunities through self-employment. “The cost of electricity has been cited by a number of traders such as Mr Okong’o as a barrier to business growth. Our government must think on how to integrate them in programmes which can boost their funding base,” he said.