Every year, World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5. For 2018, the theme chosen fits particularly well with Africa: “Fighting plastic pollution”. This fight is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges for most countries. To achieve this, no gesture is too small, everyone can and must act at his level. We tell you how!
Plastic waste is literally a plague for the environment. We see images circulating regularly on social networks showing seas of plastic, mountains of plastic, animals choking on plastic bags or bottles …
To begin with, plastic is a derivative of petroleum, a non-renewable resource, whose extraction is extremely polluting. Then, let’s take for example, simple plastic packaging: to arrive at their final form, it is necessary to add solvents, additives and other very toxic chemical products. This makes them, by the way, dangerous for health when they are in contact with hot food.
Another problem is the management of these plastics once used. Because there are several types of plastics (PET, PE, HDPE…), the management at the end of life is very complex because each type of plastic has a specific treatment. Moreover, even if some categories of plastics are recyclable, they are not necessarily recycled in practice because this implies the existence of a collection and recovery / transformation channel, which is not the case in most African countries in particular.
Plastic pollution is indeed a frightening reality: once used, a plastic bag takes between 100 and 400 years to decompose. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation for the Circular Economy, in 30 years if nothing changes, there will be more plastic than fish in the seas. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, decimating marine species and birds, and affecting the entire food chain, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This means that we will end up with these plastic particles on our plates!
It is true that most African states prohibit the production, import and marketing of so-called light plastic bags. However, apart from Rwanda, which has made a name for itself in the implementation of its policy, most African countries have failed miserably. So are we condemned to die under tons of plastic? No, everyone can act at his level.
We can already change our habits: we can prefer reusable packaging, bags and containers. Don’t hesitate to update our old practices: use of banana leaves, calabashes, earthen pots like canaries… Who knows, it could be a business opportunity to seize!
You can also reuse them to grow your own vegetables and salads like the association Jeunesse et développement durable pour l’Afrique (J2D_Afrique) in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Then, throw your garbage in garbage cans and not on the ground or in the street, sort your garbage at home and sell some of it like plastic bottles.
You can also take part in citizen actions to clean the streets (such as eco-collect in Cameroon or eco-Jogging in Togo) or why not organize some yourself!
And also, we do not forget to support young companies and associations already active in the field: like Namé Recycling in Cameroon or Coliba in Ivory Coast.
Nobody is too small to act, let’s start at our level with our means!