Garbage is a thing that every Nairobian household generates on a daily basis. This ranges from plastics, paper, glass and general refuse and is mostly dumped in designated areas.
Nairobi’s Dandora dumpsite is one of the largest in Africa. From dawn to dusk, the site is a beehive of activities as trucks offload the tonnes of garbage generated daily. There is also a group of people mainly from the slums who scavenge on the dumpsite as they seek to fill their sacks with valuable trash such as plastic bottles. These people are controlled by gangs who pay them at the end of the day depending on the weight of garbage collected.
Trashlord Gangs and cartels
The gangs are overseen by dumpsite cartels who make money from lucrative contracts for waste management.
It is a matter of life and death for the gangs and they have to be on the lookout lest they get dethroned. In a documentary by DW news, an anonymous worker at the dumpsite tells of the scramble for the dumpsite which has had casualties.
“It is the gangs that control the dumpsite. We cannot let anyone from outside come and pick garbage. There was what we called the ‘revolution’; the overthrowing of the leadership of the dumpsite. The gangs fought each other and around 14 people died. Those who took over are the ones who control the dumpsite currently,” he revealed.
Even though it is a miserable tale of Nairobi’s poorest, it is a contrast for others as the garbage is making them millions. This article will feature Nairobi garbage millionaires who have carved a niche for themselves using the city’s garbage.
Susan Waithera-Ksh2 million per month
Now in her 40s, Susan Waithera makes a tidy sum from Dandora dumpsite. According to an article that appeared on the Standard, the primary school drop out makes Kshs2 million on a bad month from the dumpsite. She left her village more than 20 years ago and made it to the city after selling her land. She had only Sh5,000 with her. Waithera ventured into the waste sorting business and has never looked back.
The multi-millionaire now owns a house in Dandora, rental premises, a pick-up and truck.
“I started collecting plastics, selling them to dealers and saving part of my daily earnings. In no time, I was collecting and buying from others who ventured into the dumpsite before I came to the city,” she told the publication.
She runs the profitable business with the help of her husband and has ten employees.
Mama Omubo-owns matatus and other businesses
She is also listed among those making a tidy sum from Dandora dumpsite. Omubo has a number of businesses including a fleet of matatus plying the Dandora route. Even after accumulating considerable wealth, she still works at the dumpsite.
Joyce Ngatia-makes Sh500,000
For Joyce Ngatia, a widow who has a registered company with a total of two trucks, Nairobi’s waste has opened up opportunities to make good money.
She is behind Pemaj Cleaning Services, a company that collects garbage in various estates. The 33 year old wakes up at 4 a.m, dressed in an overall and a face mask as she supervises her 8 workers as they collect trash around the city.
Ngatia ventured into this lucrative enterprise with only ksh50,000, an amount she received as condolences contribution following the passing on of her husband. She began by hiring a truck for the collection of domestic refuse. Over years, Ngatia says her income has grown and she can now make up to Ksh 500k monthly.
“In 2016, I would make 50k a month, then 80k in 2017. By 2019, I would make up to 200k depending on the work done. Here I am right now and per month I can make between 450k and 500k,” she told KTN News.
The future of her venture is to acquire more trucks and be able to increase her earnings to the six figure. She however says that the business is full of challenges such as trucks getting stuck in the dumpsite especially during rainy seasons. Moreover, the business has since found more competitors who scramble for the city’s garbage.
Although he remains cagey on his real worth, the Standard listed him among the silent Nairobi garbage millionaires. The man who has been at the dumpsite since 1995, has also ventured into pig-rearing business just near the dumpsite.
“At home, I keep free range chickens that produces eggs for the local market,” he told the daily.