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Our war on Plastics

Over the past couple of months several bales have been waged in our war on single use plastics and litter. World Clean Up Day took place on 15 September with an impressive 15 million volunteers over 158 countries taking me out to participate in the biggest ever waste collection day in human history. On an equally epic scale, System 001, a gigantic drifting system, started its journey towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to begin the largest ocean clean-up in history.

Closer to home on the Kenyan coast, bales against plastics and waste are also being fought. Last month we reported on the innovative Flipflopi Dhow project where waste plastics are being given a second lease life as a very colourful traditionally built dhow, and in this issue, you can read about a much more traditional way of reusing waste in our article on Kwale Plastics Plus Collectors. These initiatives are all great, but we also urgently need to start tackling the source of the problem. Despite the Kenyan government leading the way and introducing a ban on plastic bags in 2017, Kenya continues to suffer from huge waste management issues, the consequences of which are only too visible even during short


For many, Blue Planet 2 served as a wakeup call, highlighting in very visual terms how our overuse and improper disposal of plastics are killing marine wildlife. Some scientists even estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans. The Kenyan coastline is no exception and unfortunately, tourism only adds to the problem by contributing huge volumes of waste and putting additional pressure on inadequate infrastructure.

When we go on holiday, many of us seek a break from day to day tasks and challenges and are not as environmentally minded as we would be at home. Tourist brochures lure us to exotic locations by enchanting us with images of pristine white sand beaches. Kenya does indeed boast some truly world-class beaches, but for them to stay like this, tourists also need to be mindful of their own impacts whilst on holiday.

But on the bright side though, there are fun ways to engage beyond cutting down on single use plastics as much as possible and always disposing of litter properly. Indeed, Kenya has innumerable entrepreneurs and artisans making use of trash to give it a second lease of life as beautiful handicrafts. A great example is Ocean Sole, where they aim to transform over 50 tons a year of discarded and lost flip-flops found in the ocean and on land by up-cycling them into colourful art. There are examples of upcycled trash all along the coast and by supporting these initiatives, tourists can not only enjoy unique souvenirs, but also help sustain these entrepreneurs who are each helping to preserve our coastline and countryside.

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