By Leonida Kombo

If there’s one thing we all share, it’s the place that we call home: planet Earth. People across the world celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd, an annual event with a focus on environmental awareness. In the spirit of Earth Day we had a conversation with 348 Kenyans and 242 Jamaicans about their waste management habits. Here’s what they shared with us.

Love for mother earth is widespread: 98% of Jamaicans and 99% of Kenyans value a clean environment. 61% of Kenyans and 62% of Kenyans are concerned where their trash ends up after disposal. Three-fourths of Kenyans (76%) and less than half of Jamaicans (35%)  reported making personal efforts to conserve the environment. Despite this personal appreciation, there is little help from the outside. Most Kenyans (56%) and Jamaicans (67%) felt like others didn’t take waste management laws seriously - constant littering and dumping trash into rivers happens around them while authorities turn a blind eye.

A small minority of people have their garbage picked up by municipal governments; 73% of Jamaicans dispose of their waste through private garbage collection service and  42% of Kenyans dispose of it ‘by themselves’.

As one Jamaican put it, “Compared to the high crime rate and unemployment, garbage collection seems less important ”. With all this trash floating around, it’s no surprise that more than half (65%) of Kenyans and 38% Jamaicans  suffered from the effects of pollution. Among Kenyans, 34% specifically complained about  air pollution fumes emitted from poorly maintained public transportation vehicles and odours from nearby dumps and open sewers. One person even mentioned  breathing and eyesight problems as a result. Farmers referenced  their yields being negatively  affected by polythene bags that pollute their farms. Reasons given for this pollution included open burning of garbage, irregular collection of garbage in some areas and dumping sites that have become breeding grounds for vectors of disease such as rats and mosquitoes.

Under all of this garbage, there is still hope - while only 37% of Kenyans and 42% of Jamaicans reported recycling currently, a whopping 94% of Kenyans and 72% of Jamaicans recognize the importance of recycling and want to learn more.  Better yet, 97% and 89% of Kenyans and Jamaicans respectively, want to have recycling services in their communities. Where there’s a will, there should be a way. In the case of recycling there’s a will, now we need a way!