From Oklahoma to East Africa and all the GREEN in between
Hello to all my green people and happy Saturday! I’m excited to share this particular blog with you all because I happen to have a fondness for entries centered around people close to me doing their part to change the world. The Executive Director of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, Jeanette Nance, took a recent mission trip to East Africa and through her I am able to tell this story.
During Jeanette’s travels through East Africa she was able to see firsthand the strides that are being taken to reduce the amount of single use plastic entering into many of Africa’s countries. She also did her own part to bring a piece of home with her in the form of supplies to assist with participation in the Great American Cleanup aka GAC (only the name may need to be changed to the Great World Cleanup at this rate). Through the sharing of her experience I found myself curious about the sustainable practices taking place in the continent of Africa.
The African continent is leading the world in plastic bag regulations with 31 of these bans being passed in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, and as we all know by now plastic bags aka “film plastic” is one of the more pesky of plastics and can almost never be recycled do to the fact that recycle facilities can’t process the flimsy plastic through their machines. This bag ban that can be found in many areas of Africa is incredibly effective due to the fact that most of their waste is burned, which happens to be super bad for the environment. By banning plastic bags there is less waste generated, waste that cannot be recycled therefor producing less leads to a lower amount that must eventually be burned.
Bear with me as I take a sidebar on burning waste…
When plastic is burned without much regard to air quality regulations it releases poisonous gases that threaten the health of vegetation, animals and humans alike. It increases the risk of heart disease and aggravates certain conditions such as asthma. For all of the plastic that doesn’t make it to be incinerated it often ends up in our oceans where it goes on to hurt marine life. Basically, by now you all can tell my distaste for single use plastic is rather strong.
Getting back to the topic at hand…
Jeanette’s mission trip of two weeks took her through the country Tanzania, which is said to be the pioneer in the plastic bag ban movement. With her knowledge of the implementation of the plastic bag ban she was able to bring the good practices of KOB’s very own mission; which is to improve communities through litter prevention, waste reduction and beautification that she educates others about in her role as Executive Director.
With each stop that she made she provided reusable bags to the people of the villages of Maasai which in case you were curious … (because I was) is located in Southern Kenya/ Northern Tanzania. Even more inspiring was the fact that the people of Mkambarani, Mtipule and Dar had such a strong desire to hold their own cleanups within their villages as a result of the supplies provided by Jeanette and her team. The students on one campus she visited in Morogoro were even recognized as participating in GAC spanning more than the territory of Oklahoma that KOB is responsible for. The purpose of GAC is to end littering and improve recycling while also beautifying communities, which is exactly what these young people accomplished.
African countries in particular are leading the way in regard to fighting plastic pollution, falling under the umbrella of the United Nations pact to fight ocean plastic waste. I must say after hearing about the work that the continent of Africa is doing to cease the use of plastic bags, I am quite inspired to continue to urge each and every one of us to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle when and where we can. We must all be an example to one another to do better, by being better one day at a time.
“Small acts when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world”- Howard Zinn
KOB’s Very own Blog Contributor,