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Collecting cartons for a living

In an effort to eke out a living and conserve the environment, a middle aged man has been collecting cartons from parts of Kikuyu Sub-county of Kiambu County.

Popularly known as ‘Gathanji’ by the local people of Kinoo area, Joseph Muthanja has been collecting cartons in Kikuyu, Muthiga, Kinoo and Regen and later sells them to manufacturing companies for recycling.

Talking to KNA on Thursday from Muthiga where he had collected and packaged two sacks of carton waste, he remembered with nostalgia how he was employed by the county government where he used to collect garbage and later retrieve items like metals that he used to sell for recycling thus earning some cash and conserving the environment for future generations.

He said many people, more so, parents and guardians use every opportunity that comes their way to ensure they eke a living and provide the best for their children irrespective of how tedious or cumbersome the work is.

Muthanji revealed to KNA that he got interested in the task of cartons collection where he sells themat seven shillings per kilogram to the companies that were his regular clients drawn from Nairobi and Thika towns.

The middle aged man says for him to meet the demand for his clients, he has employed five young men who help him in this collection which they later take to store in Kinoo.

For their wages, he pays them Sh. 150 to Sh. 200 in a day depending on the order. Muthanji contends that for one to be part of his team, “One does not need to apply in writing so long as he or she is willing to work hard to deliver”.

For ease of storage of the cartons, he clarifies that they are sprinkled with water to help compress them, thus allowing them to fit in a container that will be used to ferry them to their destination.

During the rainy seasons, he uses polythene bags that were dumped into the trenches after they were banned by NEMA, and papers from old books to cover his cartons though mostly these cartons act like iron sheets preventing water from sipping through.

Despite making money, there are lots of challenges that come his way especially because he does not store the items in enclosed rooms but in the open field where they are at risk of being stolen. He admits that despite the challenge, he has never thought of giving up on his job.

“It only motivates me to work harder every other day so that I get more cartons to make up for those that had been stolen the previous night.

He transports these cartons twice a month to the required companies and spends Sh.14, 000 for transport which is another challenge that cannot allow him to be delivering them as frequently as possible.

Through this kind of job, Muthanji says he has been able educate his three children who are in class three and seven and another in form three.

“There is no time they have been out of school due to fees problems or any other academically related issue,” he narrates adding that he is a proud father who loves his job.

Although most people call him names like ‘man from the streets’, ‘dirty man’ among others, he says he does not mind and he actually prefers to be in that state for the love he has for his job.

During a good season when the cartons are on demand, Muthanji sells 1 ton of cartons that comprises of 10, 000 making him earn Sh. 70, 000. He hopes that as time goes by, he will be in a position to sell 10 shillings per kilogramme in order to make more profit from his job that has not attracted many people in the area.

Apart from the carton business, he also ferries people’s luggage using a handcart which he says was also augments his income per day. He also sells charcoal near his carton storage area and has been able to multi task in the three areas, thus making him enjoy the proceeds of his sweat.

Finally, he challenges the youthful generation who have continued to lament about joblessness to use the little opportunities that come their way, saying God will open doors for them, adding a long journey starts with a single step, like it did for him.

By  Joan  Ngige

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