Start-up rides Mombasa’s trash problem to make money

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Start-up rides Mombasa’s trash problem to make money


Teenagers load garbage from a tuk-tuk of Pollucare Cleaners into a county garbage truck at Manyimbo in Tudor, Mombasa, May 21, 2021. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG

Summary

  • In 2017 he founded Pollucare Cleaners, a start-up offering solid waste disposal services to residential and commercial customers.
  • To break into the industry, Mr Kiwo started small and used his savings of Sh1,500 to buy bins.
  • On a daily basis, the startup workers start work at 6 a.m. by collecting garbage from homes, schools, hotels and small businesses in the Liwatoni, Mombasa, Nyali and Mtwapa area.

Mombasa, like other major cities, has had to contend with the challenge of waste management, from landfills in undesignated areas to uncollected rubbish being piled up on street reserves.

The rubbish is a thorn in the side of most residents, posing the risk of diseases such as malaria and cholera. But for Michael Kiwo, at the heart of the problem lies a business opportunity that he was quick to seize.

He believed in the potential so much that he quit his day job at a freight and trucking company to pursue his business dream.

“Growing up, I witnessed an increasing number of health problems caused by poor waste management in the area. This often got worse during the rainy season, as garbage blocked the sewage system and exposed residents to disease,” says Mr. Kiwo.

In 2017 he founded Pollucare Cleaners, a start-up offering solid waste disposal services to residential and commercial customers.

To break into the industry, Mr Kiwo started small and used his savings of Sh1,500 to buy bins. He also approached his family for further financial assistance of Sh15,000 to enable him to purchase his first handcart.

The company incurred daily running costs of 300Sh.

On a daily basis, the startup workers start work at 6 a.m. by collecting garbage from homes, schools, hotels and small businesses in the Liwatoni, Mombasa, Nyali and Mtwapa area.

Around 3 p.m. the group, which started with just five customers, clears up the collection and starts sorting the rubbish. Here, the plastic, metal and paper waste is sorted before the remaining waste is dumped onto a municipal truck, which transports it to the Mwakirunge landfill.

“In order to reduce the carbon footprint and pollution, the Pollucare cleaners only dispose of 10 percent of the waste, while other waste such as paper waste, metal waste, cans and plastic is forwarded to their respective recyclers,” explains Kiwo.

Fees for different customers vary according to their preferences and prices range from Sh500 to Sh20,000 per month.

“We charge customers based on their preferences and this is based on their requirements such as pickup times, frequency, number of liners and the quality of the liners as some want branded liners,” explains Kiwo.

To ensure a clean, healthy environment, the start-up with four full-time employees and two part-time employees offers its customers trash cans and trash bags.

According to Mr. Kiwo, the company is also a form of self-determination for the employed youth, as they not only manage to afford a decent lifestyle, but also stay away from drugs.

The company, which currently provides services to over 150 customers and collects over 20 tons of waste every day, also offers other services including pest control and fumigation using high-quality cleaning agents and environmentally friendly pesticides.

A cleaning service is also available upon request.

To ensure the startup is efficient and effective, Mr. Kiwo has partnered with organizations such as the Youth Empowerment Program Initiative, which offers business mentoring, and the Mombasa District Government Departments of Environment and Energy

Mr. Kiwo was also aggressive in marketing, using all sorts of strategies from door to door to using flyers and the social media platforms

The start-up is also running a public awareness campaign on environmental protection.

To keep the business going, the startup plows every single profit it makes back into the company.

Pollucare Cleaners has also won a number of awards and this year came second in the Optiven Go Green Awards Excellence in the Waste Management category.

In the future, the start-up wants to transform the illegal dumps into green spaces with beautiful trees and nature. Mr. Kiwo also plans to work with other established companies to develop useful products such as building materials and charcoal that are made from waste and consumed locally at an affordable price.

Even though the startup is a success today, it had to face some challenges as despite the many efforts of different organizations to protect the environment, there is still a percentage of people who are careless when it comes to environmental protection, causing the illegal landfills to be revived.

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About Sonia Martinez

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