From Waste to Products: Maximising impacts of community-based plastic enterprise in Watamu, Kenya

Marine Watamu Associations
Published: 29 April 2021
Last edited: 29 April 2021
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Watamu Marine Association (WMA) is a unique initiative at the Kenyan coast bringing together members from the community, tourism and environment sectors. WMA promotes community development and empowerment, and advocates for the protection and preservation of Watamu Marine Park and Reserves. WMA is exploring participatory and co-management potential with the managing authorities and agencies. WMA promotes member groups, business ventures and partner projects in Watamu and the surrounding areas.

The project has created a dynamic plastic waste value chain between the local community and tourism industry. This created jobs for recyclers and part-time income for the community beach-cleaning teams, and provides an environmental service to hotels. The project now plans to expand its operations to the larger neighbouring coastal towns of Malindi and Kilifi, targeting a population of more than 400,000 people along a 70 km stretch of coastline. All hard plastic waste is machine crushed at Eco-World Recycling in Watamu.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Rocky reef / Rocky shore
Access and benefit sharing
Cities and infrastructure
Coastal and marine spatial management
Disaster risk reduction
Ecosystem services
Gender mainstreaming
Health and human wellbeing
Legal & policy frameworks
Local actors
Marine litter
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Waste management
Loss of Biodiversity
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Ecosystem loss
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Infrastructure development
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Lack of infrastructure
Poor governance and participation
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 14 – Life below water
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations
Indirect through consumers
Indirect through government


Watamu, Kilifi, Kenya | Malindi


  • The ever increasing volume of unrecyclable marine litter impacting kenyan beaches as well as the lack of county government enforcing of waste management regulations.
  • The large volume of recyclable plastic waste going to dump sites and not reaching the value chain due to either being incompatible chemical components.
  • Informal waste picker sector working without infrastructure and government recognition or support. Waste pickers for a long time, have been side-lined from development due to the negative perception about this occupation (outcast).
  • Lack of investment and support from Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Kenya PET Recycling Company (PETCO) for community-based circular economy enterprises that are doing much to remove plastics from their members.
  • Lack of investment from County Government in providing infrastructure, facilities, and conducive conditions to help develop community-based waste management, including enforcing waste management regulations i.e. collection, transport etc.


  • Local community groups: Women’s and youth groups receiving an income as beach cleaners and plastic pickers.
  • County Government through assistance with marine litter management.
  • CBOs NGOs, enterprises through training, knowledge sharing.

How do the building blocks interact?

Partnering with hotels to source waste and training hotel staff on best waste management and segregation practices was imperative in organizing circularity as well a plastic value chain through the collection, storage, and transport logistics within Watamu, Malindi, and Kilifi. Investing in Eco-World recycling machinery, transport systems, and up-scaling and expanding operations was critical in that infrastructure was missing to handle large volumes of waste collected. Also, training community members on how to make up-cycled products of value was complimented by enhancing advocacy efforts to improve waste management policies in the County including championing education and awareness on waste management best practices and showcasing circular economy opportunities



  • Procurement of a waste collection vehicle to transport plastic waste and marine litter collected within Watamu and its neighbouring towns to recycling facility.
  • Procurement of PET crusher machine for processing plastic waste bottles that process 2 tonnes of plastic per day.
  • 100 waste pickers from disadvantaged women and youth groups were able to get decent employment and earn a weekly income from the project by participating in the sponsored “Cash 4 Trash” beach clean-ups.
  • Placement of large plastic waste collection containers in Watamu and Malindi towns for public use and to raise awareness on waste segregation at source including assisting the county government in enforcing waste management.
  • Procurement of an injection moulder for making marine litter plastic keyrings and fridge magnets for sale at the Eco World shop consequently ensuring income and decent living for the workers at the factory.
  • Collected over 33 tons of marine litter collected from the Watamu Marine Park and beaches since Jan 2020.
  • Trained over 30 local community artisans on how to make up-cycled products from fishing gear and flip-flops marine litter.
  • 4 key stakeholder meetings held in Watamu and Malindi to discuss ways in which we can strengthen and develop circular economy partnerships and collaborative processes between civil society, government, and private sector in the project area.


Marine Watamu Associations

Malindi Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve's status has been renewed as an International UNESCO Designated Biosphere Area.

Watamu Marine Park and Reserve deserve extra protection, it's official! Assisted by representations from Watamu Marine Association members including a Rocha Kenya WMA's chair Justin Kitsao representing the Malindi Watamu area argued for a renewal of its internationally protected status. Justin lobbied UNESCO in Tanzania last year and campaigned to extend the protected area to Arabuko Sokoke Forest. UNESCO deliberated for almost a year and finally granted the extension, although the Forest is still being deliberated on. Since 1968 Malindi Watamu Marine Park and Reserve has been protected nationally, as a home for sea turtles, whales, dolphins, coral reefs and an abundance of fish life. Not forgetting Mida Creek and the vital role it plays as a nursery for marine life and hundreds of species of birds. Most certainly Watamu is an important area ecologically. Watamu Marine Association worked together with Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service and in mid-September 2015 were involved in final handing over the management manual for UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in Africa, Justin Kitsao represented Malindi Watamu Biosphere reserve in Dar e Salaam in Tanzania who developed the document. Hosted by Turtle Bay Beach Club. Thanks also to help and support from Biosphere Twin North Devon Biosphere Sharing experiences and understanding is an important function for the worldwide Biosphere Reserve network. "North Devon's Biosphere Reserve has twinned with Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve in Kenya so we can learn from one another about how to adapt to a world of climate change, sea-level rise and coastal erosion. The intention is to twin the communities not just the co-ordinators or management groups. Representatives from Malindi have visited North Devon and vice-versa."


Contributed by

obareraymond_39546's picture

Raymond Obare Sustainable inclusive Business- Knowledge Centre Kenya

Other contributors

Watamu Marine Association