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As an anti-litter activist in Kenya, every time I see somebody litter, I have to talk to them about it. The conversation usually starts like this:

“Habari yako? Nimeona umetupa peel yako ya ndizi (ama chupa ama yoghurt) after umemalizia. Unaona kama umefanya kitu nzuri?

(English: Hello? I’ve seen that you’ve thrown away your banana peel (or soda bottle, yoghurt cup, etc.) after you’ve finished with it. Do you think what you’ve done is a good thing?)

In asking this question, I always make a point of personalizing it to address the litterer and make them own their actions. The response is always a strong ‘no’ by 9 out of 10 people. This ‘no’ is usually coupled by regret and a sense of shame. Regret because they know they could have done better and shame because they’ve been caught. While it’s not my intention to shame the litterer, the experience allows us to talk more about litter management, ending the conversation on a happy note.

Hold on to their trash

While talking to people about littering, I advise them to hold on to their trash until they see a litter bin or to put it in their bag until they get home, where they can throw it in their household garbage bag. However, I have to admit that encouraging people to do this nowadays is becoming harder by the day because of two major reasons:

  • The one person out of the ten who will (angrily) ask me, “Where are those litter bins?” Or “Why should I not litter and yet the ground on which you and I are standing on is dirty?”
  • Some of the people I talk to may not have garbage collection services! A 2018 World Bank report stated that only 50% of waste in Nairobi is collected for disposal. This means that people will hold on to trash while I watch, only to part ways with it as soon as I part ways with them!

The silver lining in this conversations is that people know littering isn’t a good thing. They want to do the right thing but they can’t. There are no litter bins and the environment itself isn’t inspiring cleanliness.

Adopt A Road

It’s with this in mind that Mazingira Safi Initiative started a program that aims to keep the streets clean through regular litter removal and increase binfrastructure (street litter bins). This project is called Adopt A Road. The program invites businesses and organizations, institutions, groups of friends/volunteers to adopt litter bins and sections of the road, maintain their cleanliness in exchange for recognition. You can read more about it here.

Reduce littering rates

I truly believe that there are business and organization leaders out there in this Nairobi that are able to adopt roads and bins. This will go a long way in reducing littering rates in Kenya. A clean environment hampers littering and litter bins offer an avenue for litter proper disposal. Moreover, these businesses and organizations, institutions, groups (now Adopters) will be able to brand themselves as environmentally conscious, something that the consumer of today is keen on.

I’m positive that Adopt A Road will make conversations and actions around litter education more impactful. Telling someone about littering will be easy. We’ll be able to match our words with actions.

I, therefore, take this opportunity to invite all of us to play our role in keeping our environment litter-free. If you want to adopt a road, write or call us. We have a list of roads that can be adopted. It won’t take long to see the impact of your adoption. You’ll be glad you became an Adopter. If you see a litter bin, use it. If you pass by a bin-less area, please leave it as you found it. Not dirtier 🙂

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