All across the world, the warning lights have been flashing brighter with each passing day. Flash flooding, heat waves, prolonged drought, irregular seasons, increased cases of human-wildlife conflict highlight a disconnect between humanity and nature.
In July, WWF Panda Labs Kenya and Amani Institute joined forces to implement the Greenhouse Sessions event series. The Greenhouse Sessions are a monthly online gathering of influential business leaders, passionate change-makers, experts, and people curious to understand how we can leverage emerging innovation and technology to protect our environment and people. There is a Japanese saying,” Talk doesn’t cook rice.” We do not want just to talk but we want to act about these environmental challenges. The Greenhouse Sessions integrates education, inspiration, and to create a framework for collaboration – leaving the audience with the power to author a different future.
The first of a six-part series was centered on a topic that is relatable worldwide – The Future of Plastics: Waste to Value (watch the recording here).
This 90-minute interactive session shed light on the circular plastic economy at the Kenyan coast and innovative ideas being implemented to deal with the plastic menace. The event also had a cool panel discussion on the circular plastic economy featuring:
- Kieran Smith – Founder and CEO, Mr. Green Africa.
- Kalin Todorov – Manager, Global Input at Plastix Global.
- Miriam Bomett – Deputy Head of Policy Research & Advocacy at the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).
- Susan Scull-Carvalho – Project Development Advisor, Kwale Plastics Plus Collectors (KPPC).
Here are some key takeaways from the session:
Awareness Creation is Essential to Minimizing Plastic Pollution
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”
This quote was mentioned by Susan Scull-Carvalho regarding the work that they are doing to try and engage the local communities in Kwale in terms of separating plastic waste and in promoting recycling and upcycling. In order to win the war against plastic pollution, there needs to be a bottom approach when it comes to educating people on the different types of plastic waste, the importance of recycling and opportunities available in the circular plastic economy.
Global Collaboration is Essential in fighting the Plastic Menace
“There is no silver bullet to the problem of plastic in nature,” Alex Kubasu – Communications & Partnerships Officer, WWF.
Looking at a systemic challenge like plastic pollution, it is impossible to solve via parochial, localized approaches. This makes it essential to have a global collaboration to pool together the required skills and resources to tackle the plastic waste problem. A good example of this is the work that Plastix is doing to recycle and upcycle marine plastic from Kwale county as part of the DMDP project. This collaboration between Kenyan and Danish organizations is an illustration of the tech transfer, a fundamental redesign of what we consider ‘normal” business practices and sharing of best practices that can result in reduced plastics in nature.
There are a lot of opportunities in a Circular Plastic Economy
Throughout the presentations one thing that was clear that by reframing the problem of plastic waste and being innovative, plastic waste can be transformed into an opportunity. For example, the model that is used by Mr. Green Africa to move towards a circular plastic economy has created lots of opportunities for informal waste pickers. This has in turn enabled them to enhance their income, self-esteem as well as aiding in creating a cleaner environment.
Accountability is Key to Social Change
Miriam Bomett highlighted the work that the Kenya Association of Manufacturers is taking to ensure corporates are responsible for the waste they generate. This is being undertaken through the Kenya Plastics Action Plan that introduced the Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme.
The ball is in humanity’s court now. Will we pay attention to the warning signs or will we keep up with our destructive habits? One thing is for sure, the power to make a change is in our hands. And making a difference starts with educating ourselves about the magnitude of the environmental challenges we face and how to resolve them.
Find out about the upcoming GreenHouse sessions via our website and sign up for the next events here https://www.greenhousesessionske.com/