Kenya Is Not A Dumping Ground For US Plastic

| Resist!

Above photo: Environmental activists at the Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner in Nairobi, Kenya, September 25, 2020. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya.

The new administration of US president-elect Joe Biden must resist pressure from US oil and chemical companies to use Kenya as a dumping ground for plastic waste.

The new administration of US president-elect Joe Biden must resist pressure from US oil and chemical companies to use Kenya as a dumping ground for plastic waste.

In April, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), members of which include Shell, Exxon, Total, DuPont and Dow, proposed investments in recycling in Kenya, provided that the recipient country accepts US plastic waste. Kenya would get about 500 million tonnes of plastic waste exports from the US per year.

Until January 2018, most of the world’s plastic waste was sent to China. Beijing decided that the environmental risks were not worth it and refused to continue. That led to plastic exports to Africa quadrupling in 2019.

But lack of infrastructure and rapid urbanisation mean Africa faces challenges just in managing its own solid waste. Researchers led by Jenna Jambeck have estimated that Africa’s total mismanaged plastic waste may more than double from 4.4 million metric tons in 2010 to 10.5 million metric tons in 2025.

The US exported more than 1 billion pounds of plastic waste to 96 countries, including Kenya, in 2019. The ACC says that a bilateral trade agreement between the US and Kenya wouldn’t override Kenya’s domestic approach to managing plastic waste or undermine its international commitments.

But, as shown by the Unearthed publication, the ACC has in fact sought to reduce those responsbilites. The ACC group opposed changes to the Basel Convention which from 2021 will limit plastic waste entering low- and middle-income countries.