A movement to completely eradicate plastic use in Africa is gathering momentum as more countries are adopting policies to help create the world’s first plastic-free continent. The hope is to create a continent and a global system where plastic pollutions no longer pose a threat to marine ecosystems and other natural habitats.

African countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Eritrea, Mauritania, Rwanda, and Morocco are already leading the initiative. Others such as Botswana and Ethiopia are following suit in the pursuit of creating a plastic-free continent in Africa. The African initiative is being driven by United Nations Environment and its global partners.

The overall campaign is called Beat Plastic Pollution and is working via other smaller initiatives to unite African nations to reduce and remove plastics in all land and water habitats. The campaign presses African governments to formulate policies and regulations to restrict the use of plastics and find better ways to manage plastic waste.

In another U.N. Environment campaign called Clean Seas, African countries are signing the pledge to eliminate plastic pollution in their water ecosystems. In June Benin, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria all added their names to the Clean Seas campaign which already included Kenya, South Africa, Madagascar and Sierra Leone.

Part of the Beat Plastic Pollution philosophy is to unite government organizations with private companies and the general public. U.N. Environment collaborated with Safaricom and the National Environment Management Agency to establish “an end-to-end plastic waste management program,” as the U.N. described it. The program partners plastic manufacturers with waste collectors and recyclers to create a solution to plastic waste.

In South Africa, replacing disposable plastic bags with reusable bags was encouraged through the Bring Your Own Bag initiative. In Tanzania, youths collected plastics bag waste and recycled them into mattresses which were then sold or given to vulnerable populations.

“Ten youth were employed during the production of mattresses in different stages: collection, sterilization, making of covers, and packaging,” said Mohamed Semdoe, District Environmental Management Officer for the Chemba District Council.

“I sold mattresses at 50,000 TSh each (about $22) and distributed many as gifts to vulnerable households and disabled pupils” Semdoe added.

Last June on World Environment Day, people across Africa celebrated by collecting thousands of plastic bags and bottles. The day marked the urgency of moving to a plastic-free Africa and highlighted the joint efforts of nations across the continent.

Rwanda is already home to the third-greenest city in the world and has a ban on importing non-biodegradable plastics. Rwanda also celebrates “Umuganda,” which is one day a month where all work ceases, and the community comes together to clean the environment.

In a recent announcement, UN Environment stated optimistically that Africa is “on the right path to eradicate plastics.”

“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,” the statement added.

 

 

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