Accounts Graduate Making a Living Out of Garbage Collection

Amos Mwangi at Waste Collection Point
Amos Mwangi, a Waste Picker at Nakuru Dumping Site speaking to NTV's Brygettes Ngana on Thursday, June 1, 2023.
Brygettes Ngana

Initially, life was very promising for Amos Mwangi, who secured a good B+ Grade in his Kenya Certificate for Secondary Education  (KCSE) and later graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounts) from Egerton University. 

With life failing to avail better opportunities for him, Mwangi opted to be a waste collector to make ends meet. 

On Thursday, June 1, he recalled struggling with landing a white-collar job and having worked as a garbage collector since his childhood, he didn't find it hard switching back to a menial job he understood better. 

Several garbage collectors at work in Nairobi
Several garbage collectors at work in Nairobi
Roja Cleaners

"I was born in 1984, here in Thioto Nakuru County. I had picked waste for a long time, even as a young child. I returned to the menial job after school since I had nothing else to do then," Amos told NTV's Brygettes Ngana on Thursday, June 1. 

Each stride brought him closer to a plausible misfortune, but such is the life of a garbage collector that can be both challenging and rewarding

On the one hand, Amos plays an essential role in keeping his community clean and healthy by collecting and disposing of trash and recycling waste.

"I have a family, and it is out of my work at this garbage collection point that I get money to feed my family and take my children to school," Amos stated.

His work is physically demanding, as garbage collectors often lift heavy objects and work in all weather conditions. Amos is also exposed to hazardous materials, such as broken glass, needles, and chemicals, but he is proud of himself for nurturing his three children.

"I am really happy to be a waste picker. Any city without a waste picker is not a city," Amos stated.

The children, he stated, were bright and were progressing well in school. He saw a glittering future for all of them. 

"Of course, with waste-picking, I have been able to take care of my children in school, I have a living and everything that I may need like a normal human being," Amos assured.

The role, he added, allows him to see the direct impact of his effort on villages around Nakuru. As a result, he developed close bonds with coworkers with whom he finds camaraderie in the shared experience of working in a challenging field.

In major cities, landlords charge tenants between Ksh150 to Ksh300 and above for waste collection. With Kenya banning plastic bags, garbage collectors and landlords have been grappling with waste management, with some turning to containers and plastic drums. 

People collecting garbage along a river
People collecting garbage along a river