Each year, more than 400 million tons of plastic waste is produced across the world, of which only 9% is recycled. In 2018, single-use was named as word of the year. And in these first few weeks of 2020 alone, sustainability has dominated the world stage, outshining politics, trade and business. The terms ‘zero waste’ and ‘plastic free’ have captured our hearts and minds.
Shockingly, the United Nations have predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is a startling and frightening reality.
This week, we focus our attention on plastic recycling in Africa and explore some of the continent’s success stories.
Plastics South Africa announced that in 2018, South Africa recycled 352,000 tons of plastic into raw material. This is a recycling rate of 46%, a welcome success in comparison to Europe’s rather dismal 31%. Yet many of Africa’s developing countries lack an effective recycling infrastructure. Currently, it is often private companies who collect all household waste and transport it to large dumps.
In Lilongwe, Malawi, under the city council’s Waste for Wealth project, 145 women were trained in waste management. Providing the women with secure employment, the scheme focused on collecting the organic nature in household rubbish bins, and then converting it into manure for re-sale. The project, although small in scale, saw water-borne diseases decrease and the hygiene in residential areas improve. However, in more rural parts of the country, waste management remains a cause for concern. The local authorities, who manage waste disposal, require funding if they are to introduce an effective recycling program.
The Ivory Coast
In the Ivory Coast, a country of western sub-Saharan Africa, over one and a half million children do not attend school. Of the many reasons for this, a distinct lack of classrooms is a major factor. Classrooms in the region used to be small, dark and lacked the necessary equipment and ventilation. Working with Conceptos Plastics, a company in Columbia, UNICEF have formed a sustainable and durable brick which can be easily slotted together and built up, making the building process both simple and effective. The bricks have been designed with simplicity and safety in mind. They are fire-proof, and do not require cement. More importantly, they are made from sustainable plastic waste.
The project has been so effective that UNICEF now produce the plastic waste bricks within the Ivory Coast itself. Women are at the forefront of UNICEF’s project. By paying women directly to source plastic from landfills, the organisation aims to lift them above the poverty line. Their aim is to build over 520 classrooms over the next two years, using the same plastic waste materials.
A brighter future
Here at The Chazuka Project, we believe that to help combat the continent’s lack of recycling infrastructure, it is vital that we empower men, women and children to be part of the solution. We also know that to help address the current inequality in educational provision across Africa, we must create more classrooms.
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