Zoë Lenkiewicz, head of programmes and engagement, WasteAid, looks at how the UK is influencing global waste management.
The UK’s waste management sector is stepping up to help tackle the global waste challenge.
It’s clear that the systems in place in wealthier countries cannot be replicated step by step in the poorest places on earth, where there is no legal incentive nor environmental regulator providing the drivers needed to manage waste safely.
It’s clear that the systems in place in wealthier countries cannot be replicated step by step in the poorest places on earth
British waste management charity WasteAid is currently running two projects funded by UK Aid: training people in a coastal village in the Gambia to recycle plastic waste; and setting up waste collection and recycling enterprises in an informal settlement in Kenya.
Both projects are progressing well thanks to the dedication and hard work of the partner organisations and volunteers.
In addition to training people in the Gambia, Pierre Kamsouloum, the WasteAid plastics recycling specialist, is sharing his knowledge and skills with communities throughout west Africa.
Having grown up scavenging for recyclables from a dumpsite in Cameroon, Pierre knows hardships most of us can only begin to imagine.
His personal resilience and ingenuity led to the invention of paving tiles made from plastic bags, and when he shares his story with WasteAid trainees he conveys a genuine sense of hope.
Pierre inspires so many people with his experience of recycling his way out of poverty, and then shares his skills openly so that others might have the same opportunity.
That is why, when given the opportunity to apply for UK Aid Match, WasteAid decided to fundraise to develop a plastics recycling training centre in Cameroon, where Pierre would be the resident trainer and Professeur du Plastique.
Children that grow up in areas without decent waste management suffer from doubled levels of diarrhoea, six times the levels of respiratory illnesses, and have chronic malnutrition as a result of environmental pollution
To build the campaign, WasteAid sent a photographer out into the streets of Douala, the coastal and economic heart of Cameroon.
The pictures are striking: young boys wading through riverbeds full of plastic bottles; small children living alongside open burning of waste; and urban drains blocked with plastic so that when the monsoon arrives, raw sewage will spill out onto the streets and directly into people’s homes.
Children that grow up in areas without decent waste management suffer from doubled levels of diarrhoea, six times the levels of respiratory illnesses, and have chronic malnutrition as a result of environmental pollution.
Waterborne and mosquito-borne diseases thrive. The Global Waste Management Outlook found that the cost to society of not having proper waste management is up to ten times the cost of implementing a basic system.
It’s a simple and affordable way to deliver sustainable development, and yet waste management remains one of the most underfunded services in the world.
Income from waste
By training people in poverty to generate income from waste materials, WasteAid is making a rapid and tangible positive impact on the global waste crisis. In January, Pierre trained 30 people in the Gambia and by March they had processed over a million plastic bags.
The team is now taking orders for hundreds of square metres of paving. Stone is rare in the Gambia (the country runs along a river and the geology means there is no natural stone), and concrete paving tiles have a limited quality and lifespan.
Flooring products made from plastic, however, are durable and long-lasting and can be sold for a reasonable price on the local market.
WasteAid is keen to keep innovating, and in June Pierre introduced the team to the concept of roof tiles, again made from plastic waste. These are a completely new product and can provide an excellent replacement for corrugated tin, which is usual roofing material in the Gambia.
These are the skills that WasteAid is hoping to share with disadvantaged people living on the Atlantic coast in Cameroon.
By getting involved in the UK Aid Match appeal for Cameroon, individuals from across the UK can proactively help stop ocean plastic pollution, climate change and air pollution, protect a biodiversity hotspot and children’s health.
What’s more, the UK government will double all donations received by 31 July, so there’s never been a better time to make an impact on the global waste challenge.