The 5th of June is the World Environmental Day. This year this day will be commemorated under the theme Beat Plastic Pollution, interesting right? . You don’t have to be a magician or a trending prophet to realise that plastics have overwhelmed our environment in the Malawi and world. Walking in our markets and cities, you are usually greeted by sights of plastic bags and bottles littered around. It’s not even surprising catching one in the act of throwing away a bottle of water anyhow like it’s normal, right? Plastic pollution really deserves a beating. A continuous battering, thrashing, thumping, pounding, pummeling, drubbing, slapping, smacking, punishment or assault on plastic pollution and all behavior lifestyles associated with it.
Plastic pollution can be simply defined as accumulation of plastics in an area that has begun to negatively impact the natural environment and create problems for plants, wildlife and even human population. Often this includes killing plant life, posing dangers to land and aquatic animal life and aesthetics. Wait a minute; this sounds familiar, remember Sustainable Development Goals number 14 and 15. (Assignment: what do the Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 say?)
Beating plastic pollution comes with a bonus of ensuring that these goals are met. That’s killing two birds with one stone. For the record plastics are not totally bad, plastics are an incredibly useful material, but it is also made from toxic compounds known to cause illness, and because it is meant for durability, it is not biodegradable. Imagine it takes up to 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade. Terrifying right?
Beating Plastic pollution is feasible. The bright side of this is that everyone can do it. It doesn’t need a medicine man to perform the exorcism. Usually in Malawi we leave issues of environmental cleanup in the hands of government. Who is the government by the way? Us right? Anyway that’s a topic for another God given day. The issue is beating plastic pollution is simple, anyone can do it. Just grab a whip and beat it. James Wakibia is a testimony. In case you don’t know James, here is a James 101. James is a documentary photographer who grew up Nakuru, an area 150 kilometres from Nairobi, Kenya. The pollution in Nakuru compelled him to act and eventually started campaigning against single use plastics in 2015. Wakibia has since been credited with starting the movement that led to Kenya’s nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, which took effect in 2017. Well, I know everyone cannot become a James Wikibia, but the point is beating plastic pollution needs a comprehensive approach where everyone takes part. United we beat plastic pollution, divided we succumb to it.
Imagine a world free from plastic pollution, make it happen, it’s feasible and it begins with you. The question now is how can I beat plastic pollution? Here are the basic ways to join the beating. It starts with behavior change
- Reduce or replace: for example next time you go buy chips pachiwaya or any take away food store carry your own container instead of getting the food in those single use plastics that you will immediately throw away after use. Carry a cloth bag and put the plastic bags at the Shopping Till to shame. Shun the straw and take your drink in the bottle. Use glass tumblers instead of the disposal cups. No need to buy plastic CDs and DVDs buy the music and movies online. Next time you are at a meeting buy a 20 L water jug or use the water dispenser and the glass tumblers.
- Reuse: This reminds me of my grandmother, her soul rest in peace. She kept all plastic bags we carried groceries in when we visit her for holidays and when she sends me on an errand She could just pick one if necessary. Instead of throwing the water bottle away use it to store water. Plant flowers in that plastic container don’t throw it away.
- If you can’t reuse it just refuse it. You can’t reuse a thin plastic shopping bag, a thin plastic bag you buy chips in, refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. Remember they are the key pollutants, so beat them.
- Sorting and disposal: I would recommend that you segregate waste accordingly, biodegradables and non-biodegradables. Biodegradables compost them, plastic should be isolated and disposed in a landfill in the absence of structures which can recycle or incinerate them.
- Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
- Make noise about beat plastic pollution. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nauseating impacts of plastic pollution.
- Organise waste cleanup campaigns or next time you hear about one join.
Osamangolubalubwa that the environment is deteriorating with plastics pollution, take action. Ban single use plastics in Malawi and enforce it. Act! Osamangolubwalubwa.