Innovation from recyclables

Green cities
How Kibwana Mkassi founded his own company in Tanzania after embracing the Taka ni Mali concept.

Mr. Kibwana Mkassi is 53 years. He has two children and is guardian to two of his brother’s children. Mr. Mkassi is the founder of Kikundi cha Usafi wa Mazingira (KIUM) Cleaners which is a recycling company located in Mji Mkuu Ward, Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania.

"Before I became a recycler," says Mr. Mkassi, "I was doing odd jobs to earn a living to provide for my family. And then I heard about the Taka ni Mali project."

It was in 2013, while in Morogoro, that Kibwana Mkassi met Swisscontact for the first time. The project team had gone to share knowledge and conduct training on proper solid waste management and recycling technology geared towards job creation and income generation. Mr. Mkassi learned about the Taka ni Mali project and how community-based waste collector organisations were benefitting from it. 

The training facilitated by Swisscontact to Mr. Mkassi, and to Community Based Organisations (CBOs) dealing with the waste collection, as well as to officers from the Municipal Council of Morogoro included technical training in work safety and recycling skills. Other topics covered in the knowledge-sharing sessions included entrepreneurship and financial planning. The sessions also offered an opportunity for recyclers, CBOs, and Municipal Council Officers to interact and craft better ways of working together in the proper management of solid waste. 

"We were taught about sorting waste," says Mr. Mkassi.

"We learnt how to tap into our creativity and use recyclables such as glass and plastics to make different innovative products. The education we have gotten from the project has enabled us to have a good relationship with the Municipality of Morogoro."

"As for the CBOs, we have a great working arrangement. We pay them for the waste they collect, they get money and we get the material we need for recycling, everyone benefits. We appreciate Taka ni Mali for empowering several CBOs and linking us to them."

A typical day at KIUM Cleaners involves weighing and buying the waste collected, sorting and grinding it and packaging it for disbursement to a big recycling firm based in Dar es Salaam. "We usually get a wide range of plastics from the collectables. For instance, Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polyethylene (PE) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which are all valuable."

KIUM also handcrafts innovative bags and carpets from plastic bottle caps that are quite popular and mainly bought by tourists. "A 12’ by 12’ carpet goes for CHF 42 and the bags sell at CHF 25," says Mr Mkassi. 

In a month, Mr. Mkassi receives between 20 and 30 tons of waste for recycling, and he earns not less than CHF 1,267, after paying his employees.

"In total I have 32 employees working here. It’s a mix of people – old, young, women, men, including my son who used to be a computer teacher at a primary school but quit to work with me. He is passionate about proper solid waste management and earns more now. My employees are all benefiting from this business as they’re able to pay school fees, buy essentials and take care of themselves."

To Mr. Mkassi, the benefits of the Taka ni Mali project extend beyond creating employment and increasing incomes. He sees the value of a clean environment, free of pollution and disease.

"I love the sight of trees, and the fresh air while lying under the shade and planning for the future," says Mr Mkassi. 

His future plans include increasing KIUM’s recycling capacity and producing an even wider range of finished products for sale.  

"I acknowledge how far I have come along because of the Taka ni Mali project." 

Taka ni Mali is an urban climate-smart project that purposed to develop economic opportunities in the solid waste collection and recycling sub-sector while reducing environmental degradation and health risks through the creation of efficient and sustainable Solid Waste Management (SWM) systems. The first phase was implemented between 2013 and 2016 in Morogoro Municipality, Tanzania and was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Puma Energy Foundation. Because of its success, the initiative was extended to Mwanza in a second phase funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Republic and Canton of Geneva (2017 -2018).