Dow backs Kenyan recycling program to close loop on plastics waste
In a first-of-its-kind investment from Dow Inc. on the African continent, the company has announced it has invested in Kenya-based recycling company Mr. Green Africa.
“We’re fully committed to advancing the circular economy for plastics in Africa and the rest of the world to mitigate the negative impacts of environmental degradation, in line with our global sustainability goals,” said Marco ten Bruggencate, Dow’s commercial vice president for packaging and specialty plastics for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.
The partnership with Mr. Green Africa dates from November 2019 in Kenya and at the time was specifically established to drive the collection and recycling of flexible packaging, which was not supported by existing systems. The lack of waste infrastructure meant that plastic waste was going into rivers and informal dumps. The present investment is aimed at directly tackling the inadequacies in waste management systems in Kenya for the first time.
Mr. Green Africa converts locally collected plastic waste into high-quality post-consumer recycled material which is then sold as a substitute for imported virgin plastics to help to close the loop on plastic waste. The recycler works closely with brand owners and third-party plastics manufacturers to provide locally produced PCR, supporting companies in meeting their sustainability targets.
With new financing from Dow and other investors, Mr. Green Africa now plans to expand its operations in Kenya as well as in other countries in Africa, further extending the capabilities of its recycling efforts across the continent. The company expects to enable approximately 90 kilotons of plastic waste to be recovered over four years and recycled into new packaging applications.
As well, the investment impact will extend beyond purely environmental benefits. At full scale, around 200 more direct jobs are expected to be created, which will impact the lives of 5,000 waste pickers and engage more than 250,000 consumers in separation at source programs, Dow said.
Waste pickers will be able to have a higher, more stable income through a fair-trade plastic waste sourcing model, establishing sorting centers that allow them to bring plastic waste in for payment, and then enabling this waste to be processed in recycling centres, the partnership is expected to make material recovery significantly more effective in the region.
An app has also been developed by Dow’s technical team through which local communities in Kenya can sort and separate the plastic waste in their homes more efficiently, and schedule it to be collected and processed through the plastic recycling system by Mr. Green Africa.
The investment was structured and led by Dow Venture Capital which is focused on pursuing strategic investments in innovative start-up companies that enable and accelerate Dow’s business growth and value.