As global plastic waste has been multiplied by several in the last decade, Africa has gradually become the world it is the dumping ground for discarded plastic.
To combat the growth of plastic waste problem members of the United Nations next week will hold a three-day meeting on Earth’s environmental woes.
From Antananarivo to Dakar via Nairobi and Conakry, African cities are marked by huge landfills where plastic waste is measured in thousands of tons. Dumps are smelly and dangerous, releasing smoke and toxic particles. They are also a place where impoverished men, women and children pick through the grime to find enough to survive.
Carried by the wind or blown downstream in rivers, plastic waste pollutes the sea, forests and fields, threatening wildlife – and possibly humans too, car microscopic particles enter the food chain.
“Plastic bags are real killers,” said Hama Abdoulaye, a shepherd living near Niamey, the capital of the sahelian state of Niger. “Animals swallow plastic when they graze on grass, and die slowly.”
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which hosts the three-day opening of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi on Monday, says plastic pollution in Africa accelerates, reach in partly by poor garbage collection and the lack of recycling facilities. the problem represents “a menace important for the environment and savings of the continent,” he said. in a recent report.
Some 300 millions tons of plastic waste – the equivalent weight of planet man population – are produced every year. But overall, less than 10% is recycled, an anecdotal figure much lower in Africa, although reliable statistics for the mainland are rare. “If nothing is done in In a few years, Africa will become a trash can of plastic bags and waste,” said Ousmane Danbadji, head of a non-governmental organization organization (NGO) called Réseau Niger for Water and sanitation.
In 2018, China decided to ban the import of plastic waste, move followed by other Asians countries such as the Philippines and Malaysia. This raised fears of a knock-on effect – the rich countries will increasingly look to Africa for of their plastic waste.
East Africa already a long-established destination for other dangerous goods and materials such as batteries or used electrical and electronic components, in particular in Ghana and Nigeria. “There is a great risk of see all waste from industrialization countries abandoned here in Africa,” said Yves Ikobo, head of a base organization in The DR Congo was called Planète Verte RDC.
In Nairobi, Africa countries will try to reach a common position on prohibit the import of plastic waste on the continent, with a view talks for a international OK against plastic pollution. From the beginning of the 2000s, most of the states of sub-Saharan Africa have gradually adopted legislation prohibiting the production, import, marketing, use and storage of plastic bags and packaging. But the laws are systematically flouted or badly applied.
In a letter to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) said they were “finalizing a draft settlement” on harmonizing national rules among its 15 members.
However, member states “have yet to agree… on a deadline for import of plastics,” he admitted.
“There is a lack of the commitment of many States in Africa,” said John Gakwavu, head of a Rwandan environmental conservation NGO. Danbadji, of Niger network, okay.
“We can not do anything against proliferation (of plastic waste) because politicians are not really engaged in the fight”, he said. But the lack of commitment is not just a question of weak governance. He is also linked to the economy and social impact of the plastics sector, which is a big employer in many countries.
“I don’t think that African countries will take exactly the same position,” said Nhlanhla Sibisi of Greenpeace Africa, based in Johannesburg. South Africa is a case in indicate. About 65,000 people are employed in synthetics material business in most grand from the continent economy – a huge plus in a country where 65% of young people are unemployed – and the sector is a major tax contributor.
South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy recently warned that any international the agreement must take into account in “differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”
This formulation is regularly heard at UN climate conferences when developing countries say they should on don’t ask them to carry the same burden as the rich. “It will be very difficult for our countries to unite in prohibit entry of waste,” Ikobo said. ” This is also, for them, a means of bringing in finance, of Capital city. Hence the importance for us keep pushing not to sacrifice future of the continent.”
But there are other voices who say that the import of plastic waste is acceptable, provided the conditions are met met.
Richard Kainika, secretary-general of the association of Kenyan Waste Recyclers, said it had “no problem“provided that the waste is” well sorted and classified “.
“Recycling supports employment creation and also keep it environment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the base work on the environment – something missing for So long in Africa – harvest up.
In some locations the citizens work to pick up Plastic in the streets and on the beaches, and some careful projects in recycling has started up.
Among the shining stars are Libreville and Abidjan where, thanks to a collaboration with UNESCO and a Colombian company, a factory for open brick plastic recycling in 2020 with a view for building hundreds of schools in Ivory Coast.
By themselves, these initiatives will not be enough solve the good more grand problem of massive and inconsiderate spill of Plastic. But they sow the seeds of awareness, which in turn leads to pressure on governments to act.
Would it be the first small steps who will save the continent from drowning in Plastic?