About 400 tons of waste are collected in Kisumu city daily, 20-25% of these waste are dumped hence polluting the environment.

Of the 400 tons of waste collected in Kisumu, 65% are degradable, while 35% can be recycled, according to Kisumu County’s environment department.

Do you know how waste collectors are minting thousands of shillings from these wastes? Indeed waste is gold.

At Obunga informal settlement in Kisumu, Phanice Awuor who is a Business management graduate from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology has embarked on waste collection after tarmacking for a white-collar job in vain.

“We identified the problem that Obunga had. Obunga had the problem of sanitation, the environment was not so clean. We identified where the problem is, then we came up with the idea, the garbage issue. They used to throw litter anyhow, so when we decided to start this project of waste management, we decided to start as youths, Obunga youths” says Awuor.

Mr. Isaiah Odhiambo who is a waste collector in Obunga slums says, this is a job that is paying just like any other job.

“Waste collection has helped me. I am paying rent from it. And I have a family. I have employed others too just from waste collection,” he says.

Dickens Hillary Ochieng, a waste collector, has come up with a waste collection company. He says waste has changed not only his life but also the lives of tens he has employed. He collects wastes in Manyatta informal settlements and hotels within Kisumu.

“When I started this waste collection business, people thought that I am a mad man. Word spread around that I have mental disorder. However, I changed the narrative and now I have employed many people who are helping me. I have a family that depends on waste collection for survival. I have also diversified emptying of toilets,” he says.

“However, we face challenges such as some clients who do not want to pay for the services. Loss of items is also a challenge, this sometimes ends up becoming a police case.”

In Nyalenda informal settlements, a group of youths are making good cash from waste which they collect, assort and recycle.

“I started it to clean the environment. We formed a youth group and started doing the work. We get our daily bread from waste collection. My children graduated just because of waste collection. You must be dirty to get money. I can’t leave waste collection. My children are helping me in doing the job,” says Samson Otieno , a waste collector from Nyalenda.

Some community artists normally use the plastics, especially the rubber plastics, called flip flops to make beautiful products. They recycle organic waste coming from vegetable peels and also cow dung and the end result is methane gas.

Stigmatization and discrimination are major challenges facing waste collectors in Kisumu among others.

Odhiambo encourages joblesss youths  not to search for white collar jobs because this dirty job is also paying.

“I encourage the youths not to just sit down looking for employment. So many people have gone to school but jobs are not there. They need to start something that can create employment for them.The problem with the youth is choosing jobs,” says Awuor.

There should not be any negative perception about waste collection because it is just like any other job.

This article was reproduced  from the original version broadcasted on Dala Fm by Evans Odhiambo.