The ongoing global movement for eliminating plastics is gaining momentum in Africa. Several countries are now taking steps to eliminate the production and distribution of single-use plastics, some adopting a total ban on the production and use of plastic bags. Cameroon, Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania have taken the lead, others, like Botswana and Ethiopia, are following suit.
UN Environment and its partners are working closely with African governments to establish policies and create programmes that are geared towards a plastic-free continent. The campaign Beat Plastic Pollution has mobilized the continent to come together and clean up plastics in land and water ecosystems. The campaign also encourages governments to adopt the initiative and come up with regulations to curb plastic pollution.
World Environment Day, celebrated on 5 June, heightened the urgency to rid Africa of plastics. Scores of people from across the continent participated in the day’s activities, which resulted in the collection of thousands of plastic bottles and tens of thousands of plastic bags.
The Clean Seas campaign, also advocated by UN Environment, has further mobilized governments to remain pro-active in the fight against plastic pollution. In June, additional African countries such as Benin, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria signed the pledge to eliminate plastic waste from their water ecosystems.
Partners in beating plastic
Partnerships with governments, private sector companies and the general public are key to eliminate plastic pollution.
In Kenya for example, UN Environment has partnered with Safaricom and the National Environment Management Agency to establish an end-to-end plastic waste management programme. The partnership will see the creation of a working group that brings together stakeholders, mostly manufacturers, waste collectors and plastic waste recyclers, to formulate a comprehensive solution to hard plastic waste.
In South Africa, citizens have been mobilized through campaigns such as Bring Your Own Bag, which encourages people to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags. Many retail outlets and restaurants in the country have taken a stance to stop distributing single-use plastic bags.
In Chemba Town, Tanzania, a group of young people turned plastic waste to their advantage with an innovative solution: they collected plastic bags and repurposed them into mattresses. Mr Mohamed Semdoe, District Environmental Management Officer for Chemba District Council, explains: “Ten youth were employed during the production of mattresses in different stages: collection, sterilization, making of covers, and packaging.”
“I sold mattresses at 50,000 TSh each (about $22) and distributed many as gifts to vulnerable households and disabled pupils” he adds.
These are only a few examples of the strides being taken across Africa to rid the continent of plastic waste and turn this environmental challenges into an opportunity. The momentum driving these environmentally-conscious projects is picking up and will continue to develop with increased awareness about plastics, implementation of policies on environmental conservation and sustainability, as well as the channeling of resources that go into environmental research and innovative solutions.
UN Environment continues to play a key role in advocating for sound plastic waste management and environmental conservation, and in encouraging collaborative efforts and synergies to beat plastic pollution in Africa and beyond.