Woman sells home to turn city trash into cash

Enterprise

Woman sells home to turn city trash into cash


Lucy Gathoni the CEO and founder of Junky Bins. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG

For years, Nairobi like any other developing city has suffered solid waste management woes. This, among other factors, compelled Lucy Gathoni to come up with ways of dealing with the menace.

With zeal and zest and no adequate finances, Ms Gathoni’s sold her only house at Sh2.2 million and used the money to establish her waste management business.

“We had not intended to sell the house, but we didn’t have many options,” she says.

“When I started the company, I would get about Sh300,000 a month, and now it has grown to approximately Sh1.2 million a month,” she adds.

At the firm, once waste is collected, it is separated into recyclables where the plastics are converted into pellets which are later recycled into plastic buckets, jugs, basins, cups and water containers.

Cartons and paper are recycled into tissue paper while organic waste is converted into organic feed for poultry, fish, and pigs. The remaining residue is converted into organic fertiliser and manure and sold to farmers.

“I started collecting garbage in 2010 from our estate before moving to Nairobi city in 2013,” she says

Clientele

Today, the enterprise: Junky Bins, has a total of 18 employees, and two lorries. They collect, transport and disposes of waste from households, hotels, restaurants, private firms, and corporations located in Westlands, Spring Valley, Kyuna, Kitisuru, and Peponi.

Other neighbourhoods include Parklands, Riverside, Kilimani, Kikeleshwa, Lavington, and Karen.

In terms of volumes, the firm collects six tonnes of mixed waste per day and over 300 kilogrammes of plastics.

“At the enterprise, we do not just collect, transport and dispose of waste, we also add value, either through reuse, reduce, or recycling .”

Junky Bins deals with all types of waste, from kitchen waste which comprises the largest volume to dry waste which comprises plastics, bottles, plates and buckets, while electronic waste includes phones and laptops among other items.

To serve their clients effectively and efficiently, the enterprise has partnered with some like-minded stakeholders like: Kamongo Waste Paper Recyclers and WEEE Centre for EWaste where they take various waste streams for recycling.

In dealing with organic waste which comprises 60 percent of household waste, the enterprise converts the waste into organic feeds for poultry, fish, and pigs.

The remaining waste is converted to organic manure and fertiliser through black soldier fly farming which involves the introduction of larvae into the waste to break it down to manure.

To market its services, the firm capitalises on advertising itself through social media platforms.

The main clients are individuals, residential households such as standalone establishments and apartments, real estate and management companies, hotels and restaurants and corporates.

Though a success today, the enterprise has had its fair share of challenges, from financial constraints to struggling to keep up with the market due to the fact that the public lacks awareness of waste management among other factors.

From managing and running the enterprise, Ms Gathoni says that she has learned to do the right thing, recognise everyone around her while offering value to clients.

“Investing in one’s employees and occasionally taking a clarity break to plan is also key,” she says.

Future plans

In future, the enterprise plans to come up with an Integrated Resource Recovery Centre (IRRC), where different waste streams are upscaled for value addition.

“This simply means that we shall no longer have waste being taken to the dumpsite or landfills, but instead we shall re-use and recycle all the waste we collect and add value or upscale,” Ms Gathoni explains.

To the upcoming entrepreneurs or those who would wish to invest in such a business, Ms Gathoni says, “Have a vision, follow your passion, do what you like, take risks and believe in yourself. You also need to invest in your company, hire the right people in terms of character and concentrate on building a great team. Finally, invest in understanding your customer.”

In planning for the future, Ms Gathoni says that they are coming up with a material recovery facility where the waste collected will be sorted into different waste streams, and dispatched to various stakeholders for value addition or upscaling.

Being a female entrepreneur Ms Gathoni says, “purpose your destiny and walk tall and high.”

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