Imagine Brazil, a community nestled along the stunning shores of Mombasa County, Kenya's breathtaking south coast. What was once a place of beauty and tranquility has become a sad and disheartened community, plagued by the unpleasant smell emanating from blocked sewers and sprawling dumpsites. The once-refreshing sea breeze now carries the scent of decay and disgust. Plastic waste has invaded every inch of its surroundings, leaving no space to walk or play. Stepping cautiously, one must navigate through a minefield of used diapers, soda bottles, and discarded sanitary towels. It's a scene that raises a crucial question: Are we destined to move from one polluted area to another, or can we break this cycle and change the norm? Once a safe and brave space for all, the beach has lost its allure. Plastic debris, washed away by rainwater, finds its way directly into the ocean. The consequences are dire, posing harm not only to us but also to the environment and marine life that depend on the ocean's delicate balance.
Recognizing the urgent need for action, a coalition of passionate advocates had to emerge, determined to transform the fate of this community. As advocates for the Plastic Tide Turners programme, we have joined forces as young leaders and girls guides from the Kenya Girl Guides Association to form a united front. Together with the innovative minds at Phoenix Eco Plastic Systems and the waste collection company Go Green, we are committed to raising awareness among the community and schools about the devastating impact of plastic pollution on human life, the environment, and marine ecosystems. Our strategy involves sensitizing residents to waste segregation in their homes and engaging them in community and beach cleanups.
However, we acknowledge that these efforts, though commendable, are just the beginning. We need a permanent solution—a fundamental shift in lifestyle that will lead us to plastic-free waterways and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Here are five key steps we believe will pave the way for lasting change:
- Empowering Youth: With their boundless energy and sheer numbers, young people are a force to be reckoned with. They can play a vital role by volunteering in local awareness campaigns and organizing and participating in beach and river cleanups. They can also become champions of alternative products to single-use plastics, such as reusable water bottles, leading the way towards a sustainable future.
- Social Media Advocacy: By harnessing the power of social media, we can create widespread awareness about the dire consequences of plastic pollution. By encouraging individuals and communities to adopt better plastic disposal methods—such as reducing, reusing, and recycling—we can prevent plastic waste from reaching our precious waterways.
- Rallying for Change: We must raise our voices and rally to demand action. We must call out our leaders and advocate for regulations and policies that regulate plastic use, production, and disposal. The powerful example set by Kenya, where plastic bags were prohibited and symbolically burned, serves as a testament to our impact.
- Starting Small: Change begins within our immediate surroundings. We can make a difference by consciously practising proper waste disposal and taking responsibility for our choices. For instance, when it comes to cosmetics, we can opt for brands that use sustainable materials like bamboo instead of contributing to the problem with plastic containers.
- Supporting Responsible Companies: By actively supporting companies prioritising environmental regulations and sustainability, we can send a clear message to their competitors. We can make them aware of the environmental damage they are causing, encouraging them to adopt more eco-friendly practices.
Now is the time to reflect upon our actions and ask ourselves critical questions. Are we setting a good example for the younger generation? Are we using our voices on social media to advocate for environmental conservation? Are we actively segregating waste in our homes?
Remember that our actions are never too big or too small as long as we remain committed to repeating them. Each step counts on this journey toward a plastic-free future. So, let's stand together, united against plastic pollution. Let's be the catalysts for change and pave the way for a brighter, cleaner future. Together, we can turn the tides and restore the beauty and vitality of our beloved planet Ocean.
Join us! Take action today and become the change you wish to see in the world.
Violet Odhiambo presenting her group's evaluation results during the PTTC evaluation workshop at the Kenya Girl Guides Association in December 2022 .