Plastic has become the most widely used material in modern life. The rapid rate of urbanization and development around the world has led to an unprecedented increase in the use of plastic. Single-use plastic, such as plastic bags and plastic water bottles which are commonly used only once before being thrown away, poses one of the greatest challenges to global waste management. Plastic can take up to four hundred years to decompose, and there is now an estimate of 150 million metric tonnes of plastic circulating our oceans. In particular, waste mismanagement in developing countries results in up to 70% of the plastic contaminating the ocean (CIWM and WasteAid, 2018).
In August 2017, Kenya imposed a draconian ban on plastic bags which threatens up to four years in prison or fines of up to $38,000 for the production, sale or use of a plastic bag. Although the ban represents a pioneering effort to address Kenya’s single-use plastic consumption, it merely touches the surface of Kenya’s waste dilemma. Kenya’s waste disposal system is wrought with inefficiencies – the Dandora dumpsite, for example, sprawls over 30 acres and is located in the heart of the Nairobi slums. Dangerous elements such as lead, mercury, and cadmium have been found at the dumpsite and continue to induce respiratory problems, blood abnormalities and heavy-metal poisoning for the people living near the site. Moreover, animals such as cows and pigs graze on the rubbish site; in some cases, as many as 20 bags per animal have been pulled out of livestock in Nairobi’s abattoirs.
The throw-away culture influenced by the excessive production of single-use or disposable plastic is less consistent in rural Kenyan farming communities. Here, the reuse of plastic water buckets and bottles is common. One of our farmers even collects plastics waste and moulds it into rope – to sell on, or to use for farming. Haller remains an advocate for the reuse and recycling of waste and has organised yearly beach clean-ups and marine conservation projects to address these issues. By involving school children and the wider community in these projects, Haller hopes to inspire a generation of environmental protectionists. Last year, the beach clean-up team collected 29 garbage bags full of waste, weighing in at over 280 kilograms.
This year, as well as our waste management programmes we have organised a community tree-planting initiative on World Environment Day, with the vision to plant over 100 trees in the Imani area. Our community-based approach reflects the need for a united front in the fight for environmental protectionism. The issue of waste pollution is global and will affect every individual residing on this planet. Thus, the effort to reduce single-use plastic consumption is relevant to each and every one of us. In the context of the current global waste dilemma, we must fight for environmental protection, future quality of life, and the promotion of sustainable development, by cutting down our use of plastic.