“Venturing into a waste recycling business is not something I thought I could do but life has a way of turning things around unexpectedly ” says Jane Njuguna. She shares her story on how she settled on this business.
Jane Njuguna is a resident of Kibera who has done the waste recycling business for fifteen years. “I settled into this business mainly because I lacked alternative work to do. I used to sell plastic wares before like bottles, chairs, utensils, basins, buckets and pipes to generate my income, but unfortunately, I mishandled the business income and ended up ruining the entire business.
“Though the income is not that stable still from this work I have managed to pay fees for my children and grandchildren up to university. She added that her collection point acts as a depot for buying the various items to be recycled and selling them to brokers since they have the permission to sell them off to different companies”.
She established a waste collection point for various refuses ranging from plastics, bones, pipe, and soles getting better profits compared to the other previous business. “For each category, I buy from my customers I charge according to the weight that is; 1kg of plastic at Ksh 20, 1kg of bones at Ksh 10, 1kg of soles at Ksh 15 and 1kg of pipes at Ksh 10.”
The recycling process
Jane then sells it to brokers at a slightly higher cost and that is how she gets her profit. After being sold off to the brokers, the plastic ends up in Kariobangi where they are melted and sold off to recycling companies. The bones are grinded to be cattle meal while some are used in making ornaments. Soles are taken to shoe companies for recycling. As for metals and steel, they are melted and sold to an Indian company which later processes new iron sheets and metals.
“In every line of business, there are challenges that occur and my work is not any better. I have had some unproductive days while dealing with disruptive clients, I have had to deal with rude clients who are difficult to handle. Also,vthe work is very dirty hence dangerous for my health since the products are lifted from dumping sites. At times, I had to skip opening the work while taking care of my sick child or doing domestic chores since mostly I operate on my own and the worst one was the day I was jailed because of buying the rail metal from a client unknowingly,” says jane. She added that for items such as gold both buyers and sellers fear doing transactions because of double-crossing.
Dealing with the risks in recycling
She maintains her hygiene after going through the scrap with her bare hands by washing them with water and soap and then she sanitizes. When she uses the gloves, she is unable to isolate the good and bad scrap so she prefers to use her bare hands. Therefore, she always has ready water in-store.
Despite the challenges Jane appreciates her work as it makes her occupied, although few women venture into such business, she likes her job. “I cherish my work not because it’s something women don’t often do but because it’s something am proud of starting on my own. My advice especially to the youth is not to be choosy when it comes to working but just to work hard on anything they have been able to secure and God will decide their fate,” says Jane.
Jane says she wants to be known as one of the outstanding women within Kenya, who was brave and committed enough to involve herself in such a line of work without being choosy.