Fellow Since 2003
The City Garbage Recyclers
This profile was prepared when Andrew Macharia was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
In Africa, and in much of the developing world, urban waste is a colossal problem, often a very visible symptom of, and contributor to, citizen apathy. Because most city governments lack the resources and resolve to tackle the problem, citizens must step up to the challenge of dealing with the trash. As Andrew is showing, the challenge presents an opportunity for citizens to create jobs for themselves and earn money. Taking advantage of the present political transformation in Kenya, and the opening for citizen action it allows, he is encouraging the formation of recycling cooperatives and small business ventures that turn urban waste into products like charcoal briquettes, nutrient-rich soil, and mattresses, all of which are sold back to the community. By getting the economic incentives for recycling correct, and setting a tone of inventiveness rather than drudgery, Andrew hopes to encourage the adoption of other responsible waste management and environmental practices as well. He sees new opportunities to expand his work in East Africa, taking ideas, relevant recycling techniques, and an awareness campaign to Tanzania.