Increasingly, African cities are being covered in litter, dumpsites and mounds and mounds of garbage, the majority of which is plastic. Given the environment's turn for the worse, it is time for us to analyse our personal contribution to waste management.
Waste management is important because it is a form of resource recovery. Reducing, reusing and recycling your waste is important for the environment; it decreases the amount of waste for disposal, saves space in landfills and conserves natural resources. Waste management can also conserve energy and reduce dangerous deforestation by limiting the amount of trees cut down for paper production.
Proper waste disposal leads to a cleaner, safer world. It limits the spread of dangerous diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, which can be caused by landfill sites, and lowers the potential harm to both humans and animals. Burying and burning rubbish is not a sustainable solution because a lot of it is not biodegradable, making it damaging to the air, soil, ground water and surrounding habitat.
Why a plastic-free lifestyle?
Plastic use is rampant because plastic is cheap, economical and easy to mold, making this material the highest priority for management and elimination. For many of us who have felt helpless in the face of climate change, living with less plastic is your biggest opportunity to have a direct and positive impact on the environment in real time and simultaneously make things better for future generations.
Out of the 50 billion bottles of water being bought each year, 80% end up in a landfill, even though recycling programs exist.
If more and more people made the conscious choice to cut out plastic, the overall impact would grow exponentially, helping to clean up our oceans, reduce the amount of waste in our landfills and lessen the effects of global warming.
Read: Kenya starts implementation of world's toughest law against plastic bags
Steps anyone can take towards a plastic-free life
Living 100% plastic free means not buying new products that are made of plastic, have plastic in them, or are packaged in plastic. In the case of products that you cannot find replacements for, you either stop using them, make a DIY alternative, or grow them. Although it may sound daunting, here are some simple steps you can start taking today:
1.Use reusable bags whenever you go shopping. This simple change will instantly cut out all of your plastic shopping bag waste.
2. Make a list of the products you purchase that contain plastic. Identifying the products is the first step towards finding plastic-free alternatives.
3. Start using reusable products in the place of disposable ones wherever possible, such as coffee mugs, glass bottles, utensils and toothbrushes.
4. Buy non-perishable goods in bulk, as opposed to pre-packaged in plastic. This will reduce the amount of plastic used in production per item purchased.
5. Shop at your local market for fresh goods to avoid pre-packaged supermarket goods. This is also possible for cereals and more.
6. Compost or properly separate your food waste. It is sometimes possible to identify a farmer who can properly use your food waste.
7. Buy clothing made of biodegradable and natural fibres and re-purpose old clothes.
8. Women can try reusable pads, panty liners or menstrual cups. This is both eco-friendly and more affordable if you can comfortably make the shift.
9. Use more natural DIY solutions for personal grooming, for example make your own hair and body oil using an assortment of natural ingredients or use a bicarb-based deodorant.
10. For entertainment, stream or download music, shows, movies and games instead of buying CDs or DVDs. Also download e-books wherever possible to avoid physical paperbacks.
11. Switch to paperless billing or refuse paper receipts for transactions.
12. Join a community of like-minded individuals. Find a local or online community for support and information.