Wakibia goes global with his campaign on ending plastic pollution

For many years clean-up exercises have been carried out on rivers in Nakuru such as River Njoro and River Ndarugu.
The exercises are done to aid unchoke the rivers from the plastic waste that always find their ways into the environment.
However, environmental activists have continued to querry on such moves and solutions that can be done to aid the same.
Nakuru based Environmental activist James Wakibia states, “rivers do not produce plastics and cleaning them
therefore will not end pollution. We need to address the source of the problem and that is from the source.”
He is however quick to note that such cleanup exercises should not stop, but there is need for effort in finding
sustainable ways to end plastic pollution.
“I have led various clean-up activities, and frankly speaking, cleanups are like administering first aid to an injured person. We clean today and the plastics keep flowing and accumulating,” he says.
Wakibia who successfully spearheaded the ban on Plastic bags in Kenya is now going global with his campaign against plastics polution.
Through his collaboration with Portsmouth University Revolution Plastics, the Nakuru’s Rongai born son is now making it to the Global World.
Wakibia who has matters environment at heart is among delegates attending international conference in United Kingdom’s  University of Portsmouth.
In his speech at the conference on Revolution Plastics, Wakibia stated that the conference is key in coming up with solutions to end plastic pollution.
“This is coming at a time when the world is making attempts to put an end to plastic pollution, I would say that this conference is very timely. A Lot of research has been done and I think if there was a better time to put in place laws and policies to curb plastic pollution that would be now,” he said.
The plastic waste campaigner opines that the society is  now on the right track in the war against plastic pollution.
Having documented over the last 12 years, Wakibia told the participants that he started out around 2011, mostly because he was unhappy seeing a polluted environment, but he never thought he would end up being an activist.
“The first time I wrote an opinion
about the solid waste problem, I highlighted the need to ban plastic bags and improve recycling rate in Kenya. I was particularly disturbed by plastic bags in the streets, drains, on tree branches,” he says.

However, he admits that the journey against plastic pollution has been a long one; from being just a normal citizen irked by scenes of pollution to being an activist championing for change.

He adds that it has been a journey of many ups and downs.
What however makes him happy is that the World has  begun waking up to the realization of the problem of plastic and the need to come up with a global legally binding instrument- a plastics treaty.
“It also gives me great pleasure that we are seated here at Portsmouth University through the work being done by Revolution Plastics and other stakeholders to provide solutions to plastic pollution; both what we can see and what we cannot, like the micro plastics and chemicals,” he said.
He urges young people to embrace social media as a powerful tool to communicate world problems.
And with Nakuru being the youngest city in Kenya, Wakibia notes that the biggest drawback in plastic pollution menace address is greed by the petrochemical industries who just want to go on unabated to churn plastic they already know cannot be recycled and which contains toxic chemical additives.
This even as global statistics indicate that more and more plastics are produced every day with the world currently producing an estimated 400 billion tonnes of plastic annually.
Half of these are single use plastic which are dumped after being used just once. Only 10% of these billions of tons finds their way into recycling plants, which means that billions of tons are dumped in the environment or left in landfills, and recycling is not as portrayed by producers.

Wakibia used his speech at the conference to express the need to call everyone out, starting with the producers of plastics, those who package their products in plastics down to the consumers.

He was however quick to note that the
biggest responsibility must be borne by the polluting

“As we continue to talk of ending plastic pollution, we need to close the tap and maximize on the maximum recovery of recyclable materials. Proper waste management systems should make this possible, unfortunately plastics exacerbates solid waste problem in struggling economies,” he said.

Wakibia revealed in Kenya, guidelines are currently being set up to provide a framework of how EPR will be operationalized through a new sustainable waste management act.
This is yet another milestone after the ban on single use plastics in 2017.
In the new law, Manufacturers will be forced to belong to a producer responsibility organization that will be mandated by law to address the end of life of their products-This may see less waste ending up in the natural environment and more of it being put to a circular economy.
More and more countries should aim for sustainable solutions to end plastic pollution because plastic has proven to be very vigilant in fighting back.

“Our environment is already swamped with plastics. As The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee deliberates on the details of a plastics treaty, I want a plastic treaty that will not only cut down on production of virgin plastic, but one that will address plastics already in the environment. It must provide finance for restoration of already polluted environments. Unless we change how we produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple by 2040. How does it get there? A lot of it comes from the world and rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash into lakes and the ocean,” he said.

Respira members sign declaration to address air pollution, respiratory diseases

Sub-Saharan Africa is grappling with rising outdoor air pollution, leading to an alarming surge in respiratory diseases and fatalities.

However, a new international  innovation involving several countries aims at finding lasting solutions towards the same and assuring clean air.

The research involves several stakeholders under the network Respira that brings on board scholars, Civil society groups, communities, private sector and like-minded individuals in handling issues around chronic respiratory diseases.

The first Respira open Faculty Conference was held at Egerton university Njoro main campus in Nakuru County on 16th April, 2023.

Speaking during a panel interview moderated by Nakuru based Environmental Activist James Wakibia, Dr.Milkah Mutuku (department of applied community development studies-Egerton University) lauded the initiative.

“We are focused on not just research but action driven research to find solutions to respiratory diseases that are caused by polluted air” she stated.

According to Dr.Mutuku, air pollution is a big problem in many countries and is the cause of many deaths.

She is however optimistic that Respira network members are committed and ready to find solutions to such problems through innovation.

Lulu Namvua, University of Nairobi PHD, anthropologist student, on her part reiterating the need for anthropologists to highlight the issues that really cause problems to Africa as a continent.

She opines that air pollution is a problem to everyone from the unborn and across all ages as well as class regardless of their agenda.

“Now that air pollution is becoming a big problem, anthropologists have a role to bring out the issues around culture and behavior of the people and the environment” she stated.

This even as pressure continues to pile on the meteorological department to up in combating air pollution.

It should be noted that air movements influence the fate of air pollutants hence any study of air pollution should include a study of the local weather patterns thus the department is key.

Julius Kilemba from the Meteorological Department, notes that information on air patterns is key.

“The department can provide data on air pollution for any area that will in turn assist in making a decision” said Kilemba.

Though a lot of focus has been on outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution has also a major negative impact on the environment.

Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the area.

Dr.Margaret Macharia from University of Nairobi during the Respira Open Faculty Conference at Egerton University Njoro.PHOTO/Courtesy.

Dr.Margaret Macharia from University of Nairobi, Department of Architecture says you cannot separate the outdoor and indoor air pollution.

She points out that various elements that can lead to indoor air pollution, for instance the asbestos roofing materials can lead occupants of the building to inhale the particles or fumes that come from the same.

Dr. Macharia adds that ventilation and more so the kitchen of any building is also key in addressing the indoor air pollution.

Children’s bedrooms, she advises, should be well ventilated to avert any moisture that would in turn lead to diseases such as asthma.

“The building structure and even how ventilated it is contribute to the health of the inhabitants and that is why it is important to pay attention to some of these details about designing of buildings not just at the home level but in different sectors that people work,” Dr.Macharia pointed out.

Engineers too have a key role in addressing air pollution and helping combat respiratory diseases that come with it.

Dr.Ihsane Gryech-an Engineer, reveals that air quality measuring gadgets can be installed in buildings.

This, she says can be done depending on the community needs, for instance development of inhalers for patients.

Indeed, matters addressing air pollution is a collective responsibility as everyone has a role to ensure a clean environment.

Environmentalists have been discouraging locals from burning waste materials as the fumes that come out of it contribute to air pollution.

Sentiments echoed by Amos Mahu who is Secretary of Nakuru County Waste Pickers Association at The Gioto Dumping site.

Amos urge to society is for a collective responsibility in addressing air polution.

“We should all join hands in protecting the waste pickers by not allowing waste to be burned emitting fumes in the air” he said.

Dr.Serge Zigabe from University of Bukavu in Democratic Republic of Congo- a researcher on indoor air pollution especially on wood and charcoal says children in poorly ventilated kitchens where wood and charcoal is used for cooking are prone to respiratory diseases.

He adds that, Africa as a continent has most of the air pollution coming from the kitchens leading to chronic respiratory diseases that are on many occasions misdiagnosed.

Stakeholders during a fact finding mission in Nakuru.PHOTO/Courtesy.

At the concluded Respira open Faculty Conference held at Egerton university, the stakeholders believe with collaboration, air pollution will be addressed in Africa cities and address the christened ‘silent killer’ chronic respiratory diseases.

A Nakuru declaration charter from the conference signed by all stakeholders is a clear indicator of the commitment towards efforts in finding solutions to air pollution.

Ban Plastics czar James Wakibia calls it a day

Since 2013, one James Wakibia has been lobbying for banning the of plastic bags. Today 28th August 2017, as the Kenyan Government officially enforces the ban, Wakibia sees it as the best day to also officially close his four-year campaign.

“Today I officially close the #BanPlasticsKE and #IsupportBanPlasticsKE online and on the streets campaigns since the government of Kenya has successfully banned the manufacture, importation and use of single use plastic bags,” says an elated Wakibia.

“However, I am a bit disappointed though that plastic bags used for primary packaging have been exempted while truly there is availability of eco-friendly alternatives,” adds Wakibia expressing his disappointment that primary packaging plastic bags have been exempted from the ban.

He urges that in future, the government through the ministry of Environment, National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and all stakeholders should completely phase out all plastic bags, disposable plastic utensils and straws that have been exempted in this Ban.

“Let’s completely keep our environment free from these dangerous non-biodegradable items that are destroying our environment,” urges Wakibia.

The journey, however, has not been easy for Wakibia. He has been mocked and discouraged but he stood strong and he especially thanks to his friends who have stood with him in the challenging endeavour.

Hellen Mwanzia
Nakuru model Hellen Mwanzia showing her support for the plastic ban in 2016

“I take this opportunity to give a special thanks to my wife Isa Wangari for motivating me to move on despite sometimes spending countless hours on the computer, thanks for supporting me,” says James Wakibia who admits to sometimes spending endless hours overnight on the computer researching and running online campaigns.

“I also take this time to give special thanks to a team that worked with me tirelessly online and on the ground in the streets of Nakuru to ensure that everybody all over Kenya learned about the campaign. Thanks also to all that made themselves available for #IsupportBanPlasticsKe Photo projects,” said Wakibia.

The campaign would not have been a success without journalists who gave him coverage thus publicising his efforts as he set out to show the negative effects of the plastics. Wakibia who is a trained journalist himself sends his heartfelt gratitude to all the local and international Journalists and bloggers who highlighted his work and who continually reported about the environment.

“Much thanks too to all Environmental and human right activists who invited me to share about my campaigns, I say THANK YOU,” says a humble James Wakibia.

“Last and not least I would never forget to thank my graphic designer Edd Mayaka who did all #BanPlasticsKE and #IsupportBanPlasticsKE campaign graphics for free whenever I requested, God bless you,” closes Wakibia who is a professional photographer.

James Wakibia – Photography, Activism and love for Envioroment

Wakibia describes himself as an activist who uses photography to pass his message. He fell in love with photography from an early age when he was around 11 years old when his dad brought home a Yashica camera while he was in class six.
The first camera he bought was a Kodak KB10 while a student at Jomo Kenyatta High school in Bahati. He used to do photography for fun and didn’t charge for most of his photos he took of his fellow students.
The love for photography has remained with him up to date where he’s a photographer of renown in Nakuru Town.


Education and Early life

Born in Matuiku village in Rongai Ward near Salgaa in Nakuru, Wakibia attended Matuiku primary school before his parents transferred him to Michinda primary where he did his KCPE.

“Life was hard at Michinda and within the first one week, most of my new items including clothes had disappeared and all I had were old ones. The school diet compared to what I was used to back at home was simply terrible but I survived. I think it was here that I started my activism when I was forced by circumstances to defend myself from bullies,” says Wakibia.
Life in high school was no better and Wakibia admits that he was in and out of school most of the time due to lack of school fees. James all the same finished High school and moved to Nairobi to start his work life.
Wakibia is also a trained journalist.
In 2010, he joined Shang Tao School of 3D in Nairobi to study 3D and Film production. He was there for only one year though and dropped out. In 2011 he enrolled at Egerton University to do a degree course in Communication and Media. His main intention in joining Egerton was to study Photography but he says he was disappointed to find it was just a single unit. He, all the same, graduated in 2015 with a BA in Communication and Media.


Work life, photography and activism

James Wakibia first worked at a brokerage firm in Nairobi before joining Tuskys Supermarket. It was while at Tuskys that he bought his camera, a Minolta Zoom. Unfortunately, a friend of his broke it. Not to be deterred, he bought his next camera, a Canon 350D at a cost of Kshs. 40,000.
After Tuskys he moved to Nanyuki town to work in a restaurant. His stay there as an assistant manager in the 3-star hotel was short-lived as the weather forced him to return to Nairobi.
In 2008, he started taking photography seriously. He became an observer taking photos in the streets capturing various activities, events and landmarks. His love for activism and activists developed around this time and it was during this time that he met Boniface Mwangi.
It was during an IDPs protest in Nairobi that Wakibia met Boniface Mwangi the famous photographer cum activist based in Nairobi. Bonny met him and introduced himself and they created a rapport. He used to visit Mwangi’s office at Kenafric Towers and he says his photography benefitted a lot from his friendship with Mwangi.
His acquaintance with Mwangi also made his love for activism increase.


Return to Nakuru

Wakibia returned to Nakuru in 2011 a new person. His experiences in Nairobi and his interaction with Boniface Mwangi had opened a new world to him. Even as he studied at Egerton part-time, he started serious photography and also started his twitter handle @TweetNakuru. He was later to change it to @SteetNakuru through which he intended to do his activism. For his photography promotion, he has a personal twitter handle @JWakibia.
Wakibia is one of the most influential social media personalities in Nakuru and he believes in using social media for social change. His outspoken nature once in a while puts him at loggerheads with the powers that be and he was once blocked from accessing the official Twitter handle account for Nakuru County. He was only unblocked after fellow Nakuru tweeps aggressively ran a hashtag #UnblockStreetNakuru hitting on the County government for blocking one of their own.
To bring the most active and like-minded tweeps together, Wakibia has set up a WhatsApp group called In the Streets of Nakuru where they discuss issues touching in Nakuru.
One day in future, he has dreams of setting up a centre where people can be trained on their rights, democracy, job creation and generally connect.

 Wakibia and Nakuru Politics

Although Wakibia loves Nakuru and its people, he has no kind words for the Nakuru County Government.

“Nakuru County government spends money on wrong things,” Wakibia says unapologetically.
He feels that Nakuru’s is a terrible government that is not even trying to deliver to its people, unlike other counties.
“Nakuru has the potential to become the best county in Kenya. We have resources like fertile lands, world-class tourist sites and people who are willing to work. It’s the government that has let us down,” says Wakibia.
In his opinion, money that the county executive and assembly has spent on both foreign and domestic travels would have made a huge difference in the lives of Nakuru residents.


Personal life

He will be getting married soon and he philosophically says he will marry someone whom he can always love and not someone who will make him a philosopher.
“It was Socrates who said that you are lucky if you marry a good wife, but if you marry a bad wife, you become a philosopher,” he explains.
He is passionate about the rights of children and the environment and is currently running the #ISupportBanPlasticsKE campaign pressuring the government to put in place measures that will limit the use of plastic bags in Kenya.
The people he admires most are Paula Kahumba and John Githongo.


Repaint the Zebra Crossing

Wakibia is not giving up on his push for a better Nakuru. His current project is to push the county government to repaint the pedestrian crossing on Mburu Gichua road and though facing frustrations, he’s determined to see that it’s done either by the government or the citizens take it upon themselves to repaint.

Using Twitter for social change; Meet James Wakibia aka “StreetNakuru.”

When he started the twitter handle @StreetNakuru a year ago, James Wakibia did not know what it would lead to. All he needed was a platform through which to address issues facing his county and especially his beloved town, Nakuru.

“I started as @tweetNakuru but later changed to @StreetNakuru since I was mostly addressing issues happening locally,” says Wakibia on his choice of twitter handle.

Wakibia who is an activist, blogger and journalist feels it’s easier to use this handle to address these issues rather than using his own name.

He, however, has another twitter handle bearing his name through which he promotes his photography. He is a professional photographer.

Wakibia was inspired to get into activism by the award-winning photographer Boniface Mwangi of Pawa254 with whom he had worked with briefly in Nairobi. The person he admires most on twitter locally is Muhammed Mutai of @ItsMutai.

“I admire the way Mutai uses social media to press for real change. I especially liked how he tackled the GDC issue,” admits Wakibia.

Asked about his most successful campaigns so far, Wakibia has on top of his list the release of Baby Jeremy who had been held at Nakuru War Memorial Hospital for bills rising to over half a million. Through the use of the hashtag #ReleaseBabyJeremy, the plight of the four months old baby was known all over until the Nakuru County Government came to his rescue a few days later.



Photo by James Wakibia


photo by JWakibia








Wakibia who graduated from Egerton University with a degree in Communication and Media also counts on his effort to have Zebra Crossings in Nakuru repainted especially the one on Mburu Gichua road. His current campaign which is quickly spreading all over the world is #BanPlasticsKE through which he aims to have the government ban the use of plastic bags below 60 microns.

Other campaigns   

It was also through his twitter handle that Wakibia highlighted the plight of Library users at the Nakuru library. Thanks to him, the Nakuru County Government is in the process of procuring seats for the library.

   “I believe in the responsible use of social media for the right reasons. My dream is to have a website which will have all the information a person might need about Nakuru. I also aspire to launch a creative hub in Nakuru for creative artists,” Wakibia shares his vision for the future.

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