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Empowering Marginalized Waste Pickers Through the Fair Recycling Project in Kenya

Mary a 40-year-old waste picker in Mathare, Nairobi is raising three boys and one of the boys is a person with disability. Life has been tough since her divorce, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of both her parents. She struggled to provide for her family, earning around 1USD per day by doing laundry for residents.

Posted on 09 Oct 2023

The Fair Recycling Project, funded by Danida Market Development Partnerships (DMDP) and implemented by Danish Refugee Council, Mr. Green Africa, and Unilever, offered Mary a lifeline.

The project aims to create an inclusive plastic recycling ecosystem in Kenya by integrating marginalized waste pickers, including refugees, into the value chain. This initiative aligns with SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, improving the lives and income of waste pickers and refugees.

Mary, initially hesitant about waste picking, learned the value of plastic waste through project training. She now collects and sells plastic waste to Mr. Green Africa, significantly improving her income. She faced stigma from relatives and friends but remained undeterred, thanks to DRC's training.

The project provided Mary with essential life skills, including gender-based violence awareness, safety, mental health, and stress management. It also offered her digital skills training, boosting her confidence and motivation.

Mary plans to use her digital skills for employment or starting her own business, aiming for financial independence and a better life for her family. She dreams of owning a home away from the slums, supporting her child's education and expanding her waste collection business by becoming an aggregator.

She is optimistic about the future of waste picking, given the continuous production of plastic materials and growing concern for climate change, which creates more opportunities in plastic waste management.

Mary, a waste picker in Mathare

I consider myself a business person in plastic waste because that’s where I earn from to meet my daily needs and I am so glad to be part of the fair recycling beneficiaries because since I joined the project I have not slept hungry.

/  Mary, a waste picker in Mathare

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