Every day in Kenya an estimated 6,000 men, women, and children search through the garbage for recyclable materials, food, and anything of value to sell, earning around $2.50 on a good day. They search side by side with pigs and dogs, digging through used needles and condoms, medical products, plastics, metals, human waste, industrial waste, chemical runoff, and everything else thrown out by the residents of Kenya’s biggest city.
Not even five miles from the central business district of Nairobi, Kenya, Dandora is the sole dumping site for the entire capital’s trash, growing mountains of trash over its four decade existence. The Dandora Municipal Dump covers thirty acres, containing the waste of nearly four million people, with 2,000 tons being dumped daily.
Experiences of those living and working in Dandora are deplorable. Children are raised in environments with toxins in the air, water, and soil, contracting diseases that can contribute to chronic conditions later in life. Food grown in slum plots is contaminated with runoff water from the dumping site, also contributing to the spread of disease. Even local eggs, a product of chickens that eat scraps from the dump, have been found to contain toxic levels of unintentional persistent organic pollutants. Toxic waste—from electronic to industrial—contaminates the water table as well as the Nairobi River, which touches miles and miles of Kenyan terrain and serves as a water source for many. Explosions and fires erupt spontaneously from methane gas or hazardous materials; vultures and pigs scavenge with people from the mountains and miles of trash for food, recyclables, anything that can be sold; and the stench is unbearable. This is Dandora.
Follow the Trash is a campaign that addresses waste management as an urgent issue—not just in Kenya, but across the developing world. In India, as another example, the Ganges River contains such a high level of toxicity from improper disposal of waste that toxins, chemicals, and other dangerous bacteria found in the river are almost 3,000 times over the World Health Organization prescribed limit for consumption. Yet this river is a major source for drinking water, including ceremonious drinking for its healing powers.
Servant Forge is partnering with Level One Communications and other like-minded organizations to begin a global conversation on the problem of trash and urban development. Through these partnerships, Follow the Trash seeks to galvanize support and action to address the management of waste in Kenya and throughout the developing world. Three main objectives shape the activities and direction of the Follow the Trash:
- To raise awareness and facilitate conversation around waste management, for the purpose of promoting personal and corporate responsibility for appropriate waste disposal and renewal;
- To produce a documentary covering the reality of waste in Kenya and across the developing world;
- To facilitate a Nairobi Waste Management Summit to bring together experts, academics, community leaders, and youth to discuss innovative, actionable, and sustainable solutions that meet Kenya’s health and environmental needs;
- To convene a Kenyan National Waste Management Secretariat of key stakeholders to implement action steps for change.
As a result of the above-mentioned initiatives, Follow the Trash intends for increased community attention and social activities promoting proper waste management, amended policies to encourage civil accountability, job creation through social entrepreneurship waste management efforts, and lasting solutions to encourage effective and successful grassroots innovation in waste management.