Updated Apr 04, 2018

New Life to Plastic



Stage 4: Transition to Scale

Partners: Social Innovation Teams (Milan); Department of Architecture and Urban Studies and the Department of Management Engineering at Politecnico di Milano (Milan); Havilla Children’s Centre (Kibera); and Soweto East Youth (Kibera) Populations living in Nairobi’s slum areas are excluded from many of the attributes of urban life – which remain a monopoly of a privileged minority – consisting of political voice, secure and good quality housing, safety and the rule of law, good education, affordable health services, decent transport, adequate incomes, and access to economic activity and credit. This has raised serious concerns about housing, water supply, municipal waste, sewerage and transport in the informal settlements, where the harsh physical and social conditions lead to decayed urban environment.
Signs of success would encompass social, environmental and economic impacts in the short-run and a proportion of recycled material raised to 20 percent of the total amount of plastic to dispose by 2022. In particular, we plan to examine the number of tons of plastic collected and recycled (plastic that is thus saved from burning) as a proxy for environmental impact, as well assume that the less plastic that is burned, the healthier the environmental conditions for the inhabitants of the slum. To measure the economic impact of the project, we look at variables such as the amount of (KSH) shillings generated from the project and paid to the workers, as we take this as a representation of the economic stimulus presented by the project for the economic ecosystem of the slum, i.e. measurement of the additional shillings in circulation within the slum that otherwise would not be present. The social impact of the project presents a more difficult side of the project to measure, as our aim to increase women’s participation in the economy, and eventually, gender equity. As a proxy for this, we are taking the number of women employed by the project, to serve as a pseudo measurement of the social impact of the project. Those comprised of: social empowerment of women in the community, through their economic inclusion, technical formation, and environmental education; waste management services enlarged to the slum’s areas; reduced consumption of plastic and, therefore, decreased rates of greenhouse gases and toxic emissions; increasing use of second-hand material inputs in place of virgin raw materials; income and job opportunities for waste workers in the informal sector of the economy; and safer working conditions, including regular contracts and provision of adequate equipment and vehicles.

Focus Areas:

Environment, Gender, Health and 1 MoreSEE MORE

Environment, Gender, Health and Social and Behavior ChangeSEE LESS

Implemented In:



Country Implemented In

Innovation Description

The model presented in this solution fosters the creation of a sound material-cycle society through effective use of resources, in order to avoid an improper disposal and an uncontrolled dumping of waste that can contaminate groundwater and soil and attract disease-carrying animals and insects, besides irreversibly affecting human health.The first step towards a more sustainable urban environment is awareness and sensitization of the population, especially more vulnerable groups.
How does your innovation work?
New Life to Plastic aims at creating a framework for the inclusion of women and minority groups and the promotion of environmentally friendly waste disposal practices by implementing a circular economy model within Kibera slum that targets social and economic inequality. Plastic waste is collected and brought to a collection point by women of the community, where it is washed and reworked into a reusable plastic material that can be resold to plastic manufacturing companies in the area, thereby creating financial resources for families that participate, and positive health benefits for all within the community. In this way, the project empowers women by creating income opportunities for them, and in so doing, creates a healthier environment for those living in the slum.

Competitive Advantage

Every year, 3,966 tons of plastic are collected in the Nairobi’s settlement of Kibera, which comprises roughly 7 percent of the total amount of plastic to dispose. Of such quantities, 86 percent is dumped, while only 14 percent is recovered and therefore recycled. The government statistics size the total population of Kibera around 250,000 people, with an amount of waste yearly generated of 17.1 kilograms per person; but the lack of reliable data on population and growth parameters on the slum area may lead to a drastic growth in the rate of waste generation. In response to this problem, the pilot project “New Life to Plastic” (NLtP) introduces a circular economy centered around the collection and recycling of plastic, centered around a partnership between the non-profit organization Social Innovation Teams based in Milan, the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies of the Polytechnic University of Milan, and the Soweto East Youth organization in Kibera. This process will be led by a local-based group of women who will collect the plastic, work the machinery, and resell the recycled plastic. The creation of a circular economy within the slum allows for the creation of income from plastic products consumed, the entire micro-economy of the slum is also projected to benefit from the implementation of this project. In Kenyan society, women are often confined to the home sphere to look after the children and the house work, while men are traditionally the breadwinners. This traditional model for economic participation limits economic development of the community because only a fraction of the total number of able-bodied workers are actually producing. Engaging marginalized groups in compensated economic activity increases the overall productivity of the labor market. Kibera’s women have not attained a position of full equality to men and are not considered active part of the society. For these reasons, NLtP aims at ensuring women’s full and effective participation and opportunities for leadership in the project, by enhancing the use of enabling technology and machinery to promote the empowerment of the target group. To that effect, the women play a fundamental part in this project, since they are more likely to be involved in the recovery of materials, due to their role at the household level, which puts them in daily contact with waste, such as used plastic containers, leftovers, and other organic material. Therefore, the role women have in the community is moved from the private sphere to the public, by creating a framework in which they are able to participate in economic activity. The first step towards a more sustainable urban environment should concern the awareness and sensitization of the population, with a focus on low-income and low-educated groups. The model presented in this proposal fosters the creation of a sound material-cycle society through effective use of resources, in order to avoid an improper disposal and an uncontrolled dumping of waste that can contaminate groundwater and soil and attract disease-carrying animals and insects, besides irreversibly affecting human health.

Planned Goals and Milestones

The proposal submitted is proposed as a pilot project, with two fundamental characteristics: replicability and scalability. In its first implementation stage, the scale of the project covers the physical area of a neighborhood, addressing a proportion of people living within an informal settlement. Implementing this innovation initially on a smaller scale will make the results of the model more visible. In this way, the model creates substantial outcomes within the local social, economic, and environmental areas of interest. In the long term, once we are able to gauge the effectiveness of the project, we plan to extend the cover ratio of the project, providing for the areas close to the catchment, with the idea of proposing a solution with results that can be replicated beyond this particular area of Kibera, and eventually to other slums in other countries, as the social status of women in less developed areas of the world is frequently that of Kibera slum.


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