The Scrap metal ban, impact and consequences.
On Thursday the 20th January 2022, President Uhuru Kenyatta, while presiding over a pass out parade for police recruits at the Kiganjo police College, expressed his disappointment with the vandalism on a power line in Naivasha which happened just a few days after another case at the Kiambere-Embakasi high voltage power line where pylons fell to the ground allegedly due to scrap vandalism. In his frustration with apparent blatant and rampant theft and vandalism on state infrastructure, the President issued a blanket ban on Scrap Metal dealing. Understandably, this happened in the backdrop of previous reports on railway and highways being vandalized in different places in the country.
While the circumstances under which the President made the pronouncements wasn’t a surprise, the ban came as a huge shock on the industry and prompting the traders to call on the government to consider their plight and expedite the process of formulation of the sector operational guidelines as had been directed by the head of state.
The Kenya Association of Waste Recyclers KAWR, held a national executive board meeting on Monday the 24th January to deliberate on this critical issue. On the agenda was critical analyses of the impact of the ban, consequences thereto and options and recourses available to the umbrella body to her membership in consultation with the authorities on how to salvage the situation.
From the onset, the ban hit the recycling value chain right at the top and obviously at the bottom. This is because the apex recyclers of scrap metals, in particular steels, are the rolling mills, who access the materials from the lower value chain – the bulk collectors (commonly known as the scrap dealers); this chain consists of traders who specialize solely on buying scraps in either big or small amounts and bulk it in their sites for sale to the millers.
The issue that stood out was and still is, the fact that contrary to what the public and perhaps other stakeholders would assume, the scrap metal value chain involves more players than the ‘scrap dealers’. To put this into context allow me to take you through the recycling value chain as put together by the KAWR, from the bottom all the way to the top.
- Waste Pickers – They pick valuable waste from litter and landfills for sale to the next value chain. They include;
- a) Scavengers, they mostly appear as street urchins especially those who roam the streets and neighborhoods with gunny bags on their backs.
These are ones who operate in the dumpsites and landfills, picking valuable materials from the mixed waste delivered by garbage handlers, most of these are from normal livelihoods and families despite their dirty outlooks. This sub-chain is mostly played by women as men are averse to the tasking process of sorting as most time is spent bending down. b) Garbage service providers.
This sub-chain provides waste collection services to residentials and business premises for a fee. Though their majority do not segregate the waste, it is agreeable that they capture the obvious value from the waste before delivering to the dumpsites
They buy mixed waste from the waste pickers, they operate sites that have a weighing scale, and their activities include weighing and buying; then they segregate (separate according to waste type) for sale to the next chain. They store and accumulate for delivery or collection.
This chain would buy specialized type of waste materials.
They too fall under following categories;
- They operate sites from where they weigh and buy (from chains 2 and 1) and bulk for onward sale to the next chain.
- They weigh and transport for sale to the next value chain, they would hire or own truck for their operations. Examples PET, Paper and Scrap metal.
- Value addition1
This chain buys from the lower chains for processing into low-grade secondary raw materials (recycled/recovered materials). They would operate an industrial facility where waste is sorted, washed and processed mechanically then packed for onward sale to the next chain. Examples are, plastics’ grinders/crushers, Foundries, Bailers, plastic film agglomerators, E-waste dismantlers. 5. Value addition 2
Sourcing their materials from the lower chain, they re-process these materials further to produce secondary raw materials for sale to manufacturers. Examples plastics pelletizers, aluminum casement extruders, PET grinders and extruders,
They manufacture finished products partly or wholly from waste derived materials (WDM). Examples under this classification are, plastics and paper converters, Jewelry, aluminum products, Auto spare parts, Organic fertilizers, EDFs (energy derived fuels).
- The millers
These are the apex recyclers and they process huge capacities of specialized wastes into finished goods as well as raw materials, examples are paper and steel.
Phew, that was just to bring us up to date with the recycling industry and the shared roles and responsibilities by the various actors in the value chain, hope I did not digress much to get us lost to the topic of this article; the Kenya Scrap metal ban!
The Kenya Association of Waste Recyclers (KAWR) perspective pursuant to the above analysis must encompass the actors involved wholly or partly in the scrap metal chain, and these are the two categories of Pickers, the collectors/brokers as well as the aggregators, I’d like to put some emphasis on the latter because for them, they consolidate all waste and then segregate before selling, now this chain is in a quandary. Even though they don’t specialize in any materials per see; scrap happens to be a common denominator, causing the actors to be at the cross hair of the police enforcement on the ban.
In view of the facts on the ground, KAWR reiterates her full support of the directive by the government. It is obvious that the vandalism experienced on the national infrastructures is executed by those inclined on making some money from the sale of this parts to the scrap dealers. Clearly, it is a dangerous and retrogressive sabotage on the hard-earned development projects and infrastructure. The criminals and vandals on this front reflect of a section of our society that operates on blatant and unbridled greed and self-enrichment with little or no regard to the means to an end mantra. It is really not even possible to have sympathy for individuals and section of our society whose pursuit to easy money involves vandalism and sabotage on these precious bits of our national infrastructure. It is on these premise that KAWR is saddened and sorry for the current predicament and regrets the lack of cooperation expressed by most scrap metal dealers towards joining with the other recyclers even as we vouch for a streamlined waste recycling environment.
As a BMO (business membership organization) KAWR represents the private sector industry players involved in the materials Recovery from waste including energy and soil nutrition components (fertilizers). Scrap metal industry is not different or unique for the industry fits the same description as the others like plastics, paper, textile etc. BMOs fosters industry self- regulation which helps to compliment governance and ease of compliance to industry-based regulations.
To address the current situation, KAWR calls on the government, particularly the ministry of interior and the Ministry of environment and forestry as well as that of trade industry and cooperative to call together the stakeholders and chart the way forward. This is because the impact of the ban is affecting other wastes since as illustrated earlier, the lower value chains don’t specialize on specific materials hence the ban slammed on the brakes of all waste aggregation including critical pollutants like plastics. KAWR has received complaints and reports from members in the aggregators value chain, that the police are requiring them to remain closed, even for those who are only dealing in other wastes like plastics and paper. We have directed our members to put signs on their business premises, declaring that they are not buying scrap metal in line with the ban even as we engage to find common front and understanding on the way forward. Regrettably, this has not worked in some areas as the police have insisted that the scrap ban is not for metals only but all other waste materials are scraps as well, forcing even those dealing in paper and plastics to close down.
This is an issue that KAWR believes can be sorted as guidelines are being put in place, so that other wastes can continue to be collected and the sector can remain functioning. KAWR would advise the relevant government departments to be cautious particularly in regards to the time that the formulation of guidelines may take to be put in place, if this is delayed, it could disrupt the value chain and the community in general, for instance there could be increased littering due to slowed collection, the other impact could be insecurity and rise of criminal activities due to unemployment caused by the scrap market business slump.
It is in our interest that we do not unnecessarily disrupt waste management in our environments especially cities and urban areas. KAWR would request the police service to issues clear directives on the enforcement of the ban with a clear distinction between scrap metal and other wastes. It is also helpful if police were to stop any manner of transportation and dealing (buying and selling), this is because it has also been difficult for the aggregators (who were caught by the ban with stocks of scrap in their premises) to continue with other wastes because the enforcement officials would arrest them if the premise is open and has the banned materials inside. This is putting the members in an awkward position that only forces them to shut their business.
KAWR and her membership, in the spirit of patriotism, and duty to the conserve of our ecosystem as well as social responsibility, is strongly for development of some interim guidelines and policies that could form basis for operations so that there is continuity in the waste value chain is as substantive regulations are developed. It’s also wise and imperative to keep the innocent parties from suffering the consequences that they did not cause.
That way we protect our infrastructure but as well safeguard the gains we continue to make in managing our wastes and securing our ecosystem.