On the front lines of zero waste islands – ’Taka ni mali designers’

Opinion by Patricia Kombo, from the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, Kenya.

At least eight million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year. Floating plastic debris is currently the most abundant item of marine litter. To address this plastic menace, the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development (CEJAD) has partnered with the Wasini Island and Shimoni community to establish a demonstration centre for plastic reuse, recovery, and recycling. 

CEJAD, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility Small Grant Program (GEF/SGP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in collaboration with other stakeholders, have been working towards combating plastic and waste pollution to protect marine biodiversity in the Shimoni-Vanga Seascape. This has been done through public education on the impacts of plastics on the environment and demonstration of BATs/BEPs such as source separation of waste, reuse, recycling and recovery, as well as training on value addition for the collected waste.

We have collaborated with the Wasini women group in Wasini Island to build a segregation and recycling point that will address marine pollution challenges. This has been carried out through the construction of a model demonstration centre made from plastic bottles collected along the beaches in the community, which will act as a recycling unit for the women. Even though the use of plastic in this construction is not a solution, we wanted to ensure that we made use of existing materials to develop this recycling centre. This model, along with the women’s recycling activities, will demonstrate how to achieve a zero waste island through resource recovery, and by ensuring that all recyclable materials are safely and sustainably returned to the value chain. 

Through product development training, the women referred to as ‘taka ni mali designers’ are knowledgeable on adding value to waste. They are now earning a living from making and selling key holders from flip flops. The women designers have also been trained on how to make artefacts and ornaments from fishing nets, like bangles and other decoration items made from waste collected from the beach.

The zero waste management model that we are implementing in partnership with other stakeholders ensures that the safety of the targeted community groups is protected by providing a workstation for sorting and recovering the recyclable waste. The workstation will be equipped with a bailing machine that will help them bale their plastics before selling them to recyclers.

We have seen tremendous improvement in the community, and many opportunities have started emerging as they work towards zero waste. The sandy beaches are taking their shape, with less waste. This zero waste model in Wasini is leading to more sustainable use of resources through recycling, reuse and adopting a circular economy. The community will now offer enlightening examples to other communities bordering the ocean on various mechanisms of using waste to boost their economy and achieve a zero waste island.

Follow CEJAD on social media for more updates on their work!