The Plastic Won’t Reach the Beach project aims to reduce plastic pollution, create jobs for underprivileged youth, stimulate entrepreneurship, and offer schools teaching material tailored to the issues of the region. The projects will produce alternatives for plastic and recycle plastic waste as a stepping stone for the comprehensive development of the Western Rural Area of Sierra Leone. See The Project in a Nutshell
It is a project of the Sierra Leone School Green Club (SLSGC), see https://aalasesay.wixsite.com/slsgc.
SLSGC has organized agricultural projects, mitigate climate change actions, and advocacy against the use of fossil fuel together with ten schools. A grant from Ocean Conservancy has enabled the group to start a plastic recycling project, to lease a plot near a vocational training institute and to install two containers to store tools safely.
This crowdfunding campaign aims to finance machinery to process collected plastic waste into building material for the fast growing population of the area and purchase of a shredder and an extrusion machine in order to produce planks, beams and poles from recycled plastic waste.
One million elephants
More than 8 million tons of plastic waste find their way into the oceans every year. It is difficult to image how much this is. The following comparisons may help:
One study estimates that there are 15 to 51 trillion microplastics particles in the world’s seas. A trillion is one thousand billion. A trillion seconds is nearly 32,000 years.
This unimaginable amount increases fast, as if a full waste truck was dumped every minute into the sea. That is 1440 trucks per 24 hours – and a total of 8 billion kilogram per year.
The weight of the yearly increase of plastic waste dumped into the oceans is by far more than the weight of one million elephants.
If this continues unabated, the scale of plastic entering the world’s oceans would triple by 2040 to an average of 29 million tons of waste per year – equivalent to 50 kg (or 110 pounds) of waste per meter of coastline, globally.
Not one square mile of ocean surface anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution. If the discharge of plastic waste into the oceans continues at the present rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
Help avoid that. Support the “Plastic Won’t Reach the Beach” project via the crowdfunding site https://gf.me/u/y26zfy.
4000 additional trees
The Ministry of the Environment of Sierra Leone has just (September 2020) awarded a contract to the Sierra Leone Green Club (SLSGC) to plant four thousand additional trees around the ten schools in the Western Rural Area with which SLSGC cooperates. The schools have also been partners in SLSGC’s beach cleaning actions.
The Ministry will provide duly certified seedlings of fruit trees and other commercial trees, and SLSCG will be responsible for the planting and maintenance of the trees in the coming year. The action builds on the positive experience with SLSGC’s tree planting last year. The trees will in due course provide a healthy addition to school meals, provide shadow and absorb CO2. The action will strengthen the cooperation with the schools, which is a crucial aspect of the Plastic Won’t Reach the Beach project. Students and teachers of the schools participate hands-on in SLSGC’s climate change mitigation and plastic recycling projects, and the schools receive teaching material on plastic related topics and a circular economy from SLSGC. The schools will also share in the benefits from recycling projects, once these will create a steady stream of revenues.
Help SLSGC to reach this stage and get independent from donations.
The Impact of China’s Operation National Sword on Plastic Recycling
Plastic waste used to be “money thrown away”. It could be collected, sorted and sold to traders. More than half of the entire world’s recycling objects found their way to China as raw material for Chinese industry and became a major source of pollution in the country. Therefore, from 2018 onwards, China enacted its National Sword Policy and did not allow any longer the import of most plastic waste, because of the environmental hazards it caused.
Traders first reacted by exporting the used plastic to other states in South East Asia – to hundreds of registered and unregistered recycling companies. These countries soon experienced the same pollution as in China – and one after the other started to ban such imports (which is a positive development).
Now plastic waste piles up in Western countries with few buyers left. As a result, prices dropped – and the collection of plastic does hardly pay any longer. Plastic collection is labour intensive, requires complex logistics, and often results in contaminated waste. There is little demand for plastic waste as a raw material for new plastic. Virgin plastic produced directly from oil is cheaper and of more consistent quality. This means that collected plastic waste cannot be sold any longer without extra value added. Only if processed into new products for local use, it can create an income for those involved.
Until recently, most plastic waste collected in Sierra Leone was exported to Guinea and from there traded further. This trade has largely halted. The beach cleaning operations of the Sierra Leone School Green Clubs (SLSGC) and other plastic collection therefore have to go in tandem with the development of local capacity to make useful products out of the plastic waste.
That is why SLSGC needs tools for the processing of the collected plastic (mainly into building material for sale) to help finance the clean-up of the country.
Africa – the world’s future plastic waste bin?
The country with the most stringent plastic policy in the world is Kenya. It is neither allowed to produce nor to use plastic bags. Any violation of the law is punished with high fines and can even land you in prison (for up to 2 years). The Kenyan legislation is inspiring policy making in many other African states.
This has unleashed opposition from the American Chemical Industry Association. Since China and other Southeast Asian states have banned the import, the US has no outlet for its millions of tons of plastic waste – and is searching for new dumping sites. Every inhabitant of the United States consumes more than 10 times as much plastic as the average individual in India, and only a small percentage of the plastic used is recycled. That’s the reason for efforts to make a trade deal between the US and Kenya dependent on Kenya softening its plastic ban.
In 2019, Governments of 190 states have accepted a legally binding amendment of the Basel convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste that allows export of plastic waste ONLY if the importing country formally expresses its consent. The United States is practically the only country in the world that did not sign this agreement.
The lobby of the American chemical industry aggravates the risk that Africa becomes the world’s new waste deposit for used plastic. But Africa has even less facilities to recycle the plastic waste into valuable products than South East Asian countries.
One of the objectives of the advocacy of the “Plastic Won’t Reach the Beach” project is to strengthen the resolve of the government of Sierra Leone not to allow the import of plastic waste. More than enough plastic waste washes ashore every day in an uncontrolled way.