The west African nation of Senegal recently banned single-use plastic water sachets and cups, but still faces a major battle in dealing with trash imported from the United States.
In February this year Senegal’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Abdou Karim Sall, declared a ban against water sachets and single-use plastic cups. The ban was implemented on April 20.
“The ban on single-use plastics inspires us to reimagine our cities, communities and oceans plastic-free. For that, the government should work with manufacturers and retailers to create sustainable alternatives to phase out single-use plastics,” said Awa Traoré of Greenpeace Africa.
Ministers from other countries in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) have also pledged to try and implement similar measures.
But while Senegal’s ban on plastic water sachets and cups is to be commended, another sinister issue is holding their environmental efforts back.
A 2019 report by the Guardian detailed how ‘hundreds of thousands of tons of US plastic are being shipped every year to poorly regulated developing countries around the globe for the dirty, labor-intensive process of recycling. The consequences for public health and the environment are grim.’
According to the report, ‘America alone generates 34.5m tons of plastic waste each year, enough to fill Houston’s Astrodome stadium 1,000 times.’
Senegal, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos and Ethiopia are amongst the countries which have been used as dumping grounds by the United States.
China had previously been recycling a substantial amount of American trash. But after finding that a large portion was contaminated with dirt or food, China has only taken the cleanest plastics since late 2017.
Instead, that un-recyclable plastic is now accumulating in poor countries, like Senegal, who already have pollution problems of their own including recycling mismanagement.
Kaly Sow, a Greenpeace Africa volunteer, is leading the fight-back in Senegal to put an end to the importation of trash from the United States.
He has started a petition, aimed at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development Senegal, and has nearly reached his target of 7000 signatures.
“Of the plastic that exists, only 9 percent has ever been recycled, so the United States’ waste ending up in Senegal is likely to stay,” read part of the petition.
“Do not be bullied into putting the health of the Senegalese people at risk. Protect our future by refusing to accept their waste. The dignity of our people is at risk. We need strong leadership to protect us.”