Let's sort it out! Solid waste management at UNON

Thu, 01/11/18

Solid Waste Management in Nairobi, Kenya for World Habitat Day


On the UN compound in Nairobi one employee generates more than 200 kilograms of waste every year. An empty ballpoint pen, a used teabag, an old notepad – they all end up in our office bins. But where does this waste go afterwards?

Municipal Solid Waste Management was this year’s theme for World Habitat Day, on 1 October 2018. The United Nations Office Nairobi (UNON) and UN Environment’s Sustainable UN team (SUN) contributed to the celebrations with an exhibition and an online waste sorting game to shed light on the waste management system of the UN compound.

The past year has seen great progress to not only achieve a higher recycling rate but also to reduce waste. Every day, the UN compound in Nairobi generated over 60 kilograms of plastic waste. However, UNON took action and since August 2018, this has significantly decreased as all single-use plastics are now banned in the cafeterias on the compound. Disposable plastic coffee lids, cups, cutlery and food containers are no longer available, instead staff are encouraged to bring their own reusable takeaway items from home.

To establish a better waste management system, a new waste sorting facility was constructed in December 2017. In conjunction with a new waste contractor, a recycling rate of up to 90 percent can be achieved if staff optimize their waste sorting practices. But why do we need to segregate waste? The recycling process already begins with the office bins. In October 2018, recycling bins were introduced to all UN Environment, UN Habitat, WHO and UNON offices in Nairobi. Wrongly disposed of waste can reduce the quality of recycled paper and plastic products. A banana peel added to the paper bin or a glass bottle mixed with food waste can contaminate the whole load. If recycling is too heavily contaminated, it is often sent to landfill instead of being recycled. In the UN Gigiri compound we recycle: metals, glass, paper and any remaining plastics; in addition food waste is composted by the caterers.

The SUN team tries to sensitize staff about their crucial role in the recycling process and developed an online game. In just a few minutes curious staff can test and improve their recycling knowledge and dispose of digital chewing gum, empty soda cans and food leftovers in virtual bins.


The game is custom-made for the waste management system of the UN compound in Nairobi and can be played following this link. During the celebrations of World Habitat Day, not only UN staff tested their recycling skills playing the game. The guest of honor, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, took a chance and received a perfect score after visiting the informative waste management exhibition. 

Categories: Buildings, Staff Engagement, Waste