Plastic waste: the coastal area needs our resolve!

Apocalyptic landscapes

Plastic wastes are now part of our living environment, invading our cities and countryside, including smaller villages in remote outback areas. Carried by the wind, they end up grabbed onto plants, offering the sight of an apocalyptic landscape. Or, when swept along by the sea and flows, they land up on our beaches or cover the seabed. Indeed, plastic wastes, bags, bottles and various packaging are a real threat to human and plant health, as they become a fertile ground for germs and bacteria even for rats and cockroaches, facilitating the spread of cholera and malaria. While on land these are often consumed by livestock, in the sea turtles mistake them for jellyfishes and subsequently die of intestinal occlusion after eating them.

A post-mortem conducted on a whale washed up on the beach revealed the presence of 250 kg of plastic waste in its stomach. Huge patches of waste are reported in the middle of the oceans, which are true drifting continents with a surface of sq 3 million in the Atlantic alone, 15 times as big as Senegal. All these plastic wastes eventually break up into micro-particles that fishes fail to distinguish when feeding themselves, thereby contaminating our own food. 300 millions of tons of waste are produced every year across the world. Knowing that it takes centuries for these to decompose, this means that we are leaving a terrible inheritance to our children.

Are lobbies too powerful?

The power of private lobbies seems so strong that advocacy actions with governments do not bear fruits. Yet, countries such as Cabo Verde have succeeded in taking measures that ban the use of plastic bags, and see to their strict implementation while promoting alternative solutions. In other PRCM member countries, a number of laws have been passed but are seldom enforced or not at all. Successful examples exist, such as in Rwanda where plastic bags have been totally eradicated, which proves that the goal is achievable. In our countries where people closely depend on the health of ecosystems for their livelihoods, quality of life and own health, urgent actions are needed. Also at stake is the future of fishery and tourism that are so critical for our economies. Mostly at stake is the health of future generations.

PRCM partners are on the move:

  • In Cabo Verde, the marketing and use of conventional plastic bags are now banned under Act of 1st January 2017. This is the culmination of a struggle carried out by the Association for Environmental Protection and Development (ADAD) in the framework of the “Cabo Verde without plastic” drive in partnership with MAVA and PRCM.
  • Mauritania has banned by decree the import, production and use of flexible plastic bags since 1st January 2013. Although the implementation of this decree is still partial, the presence of plastic bags in the living environment has sharply decreased. By law, customs and other relevant ministries may be called upon to ensure more effective enforcement. In this regard, the BiodiverCités NGO has been undertaking outreach campaigns in schools and about the garden of biodiversity.
  • In Senegal, following a first attempt in 2002 and a second one in 2006, a law banning light and free-of–charge plastic bags was voted by the National Assembly last Tuesday. Within six months, these extremely polluting bags whose degradation spreads over several hundreds of years will no longer be offered at the marketplace or in shops.
  • In Guinea Bissau, a law was enacted but is yet to be enforced. The Palmeirinha NGO, with the support of PRCM, is experimenting waste management and recycle-based solutions, especially in protected areas.

​Credit photo: Universite de Potiers