In the coastal city of Douala in the Littoral region of Cameroon, some 164 young people have been trained in the collection and sustainable management of plastic waste. The initiative is part of the UK WasteAid projects. A programme launched by the British non-governmental organisation (NGO) WasteAid, to reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment.
At least 164 people have been trained, and as many eco-jobs created. This is the result obtained in two years by the UK WasteAid programme in Bonabéri, a district in the western suburbs of Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. Formerly unemployed, the young Cameroonian beneficiaries of the UK WasteAid programme were trained in sustainable plastic waste management before being hired by Redplast, a local WasteAid partner that manufactures ecological paving stones using plastic waste. In this company, WasteAid-trained employees work in a variety of jobs, related to plastic waste collection, eco-paving, community waste behaviour change, marketing and sales.
The challenge of plastic waste management in Douala
According to official figures, Cameroon produces an average of 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year, and at present only 20% of this waste is recycled. The city of Douala, with its estimated population of 3.8 million, is the epicentre of plastic pollution in Cameroon. Unlike metals, used plastic packaging has little immediate value to waste pickers. This non-biodegradable waste therefore accumulates in the city’s streets and rivers, eventually reaching the Cameroon estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.
The UK WasteAid option for plastic waste is all the more important for the coastal city of Douala. Plastic waste also threatens the biodiversity of local fisheries on which around 40% of the population depend for their livelihood.
The UK WasteAid programme
In a context marked by a population boom and rapid urbanisation, the collection and sustainable management of waste have become key issues in developing countries. The UK WasteAid programme, launched by the eponymous organisation, WasteAid, a British non-governmental organisation (NGO) created in 2015, is a response to these challenges. In implementing its programme, WasteAid’s approach is to work with communities to set up small recycling centres fed by waste the waste collected locally. The organisation also shares expertise in organic waste management, helping communities to make the most of the waste they have.
One of the NGO’s most recent actions has been an act of activism towards the G7. The 47ᵉ summit of the group of the world’s seven richest countries, held from 11-13 June 2021 in Carbis Bay, UK, was marked by a giant denunciation of the major waste producers. The summit site was overlooked by a giant canvas on which the 7 world leaders are sculpted using the different types of waste found in the oceans. The collective message delivered by these world leaders is that “if we don’t protect the ocean, we won’t solve the climate crisis”. The campaign, in which WasteAid took part, was prompted by Music Magpie’s research which revealed that the G7 countries alone produce around 15.9 million tonnes of e-waste per year.