Picking up trash on a beach isn’t how most kids like to spend their weekends. But dozens of people – including local school children – turned up for a clean-up on Kenya’s Watamu Beach, where participants collected 2.2 tons of rubbish in a single hour.
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The clean-up was one of several events organized by UN Environment, together with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Information Centre in Nairobi and several local organizations in the run-up to World Environment Day on 5 June. Over 400 people were involved in various events, including the beach clean-up.
“We worked with the local community to highlight why plastics recycling is so important,” says UN Environment event organizer Amber Anderson. “This resonates with the ongoing Clean Seas Campaign and demonstrates how people can make a difference. Ahead of the Environment Assembly in December, which will focus on pollution, this kind of outreach is important to show that everyone – including women and girls – can make a fantastic contribution to creating a healthy environment.”
The events aimed to encourage people to reduce their use of plastics, and to re-use or recycle the plastics they do use. Participants got hands-on experience with waste recycling: The trash they collected on the beach was transported to Regeneration Africa, where it will be cleaned and turned into fencing posts, paving blocks and other useful items.
One of the aims of the initiative was to raise awareness of the differing roles that women, men, boys and girls can play in recycling and helping to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land), 5 (Gender Equality), and 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). With that in mind, the Australian Mission to Kenya sponsored an all-girls football tournament, with the winners given an opportunity to work on an initiative to reduce single-use plastics.
A media visit was also arranged to the Kibarani dumpsite in Mombasa to highlight the impact of waste, especially plastics, on marine ecosystems and human health. Participants discussed the health impacts of the dumpsite on the local community.