Tragic consequences to plastic
There is no denying of the harmful impact that plastic production, usage, and waste have on the environment. Plastic (e.g., plastic bags) requires more than a thousand years to degrade. Furthermore, plastic products do not biodegrade; instead, they photo degrades, meaning that sunlight causes the plastic to change form and break down into smaller particles. These microplastics are toxic and can be found in the environment, causing air, land, and water pollution. In only three years, plastic waste was the leading cause of the death of over 100,000 animals on land, in water, and even in the air. The consumption of plastic bags is high in South Africa with approximately eight billion bags annually. In Africa, plastic bags are sarcastically referred to as the national flower. The waste may be less but not managed as well compared to Western countries, plastic is commonly found in piles or strewn around the environment (e.g., at the entrance to major cities, rivers, and landscapes).
Additionally, Senegal produces more than 250,000 tons of plastic waste annually. With a coastline of more than 531 kilometers, sadly, a significant amount of plastic waste is disposed of along the coast. It has been found that Senegal is one of the most contributing countries to the plastic pollution of the oceans worldwide. Not only that but it is presumed that the soil in Senegal contains higher levels of microplastic pollution than the ocean, affecting the plants and the consumers. This is a tragedy in itself, but especially for the people in Senegal, as the agricultural sector comprises over 60% of the population, and farming contributes to their gross domestic product (GDP) by more than 15%.
Factors leading to the plastic crisis
The cause of the problem is a combination of numerous aspects, such as the high poverty rates in Africa, environmental unfairness, colonialism, and corrupted governments. In the case of Senegal, the mismanagement of waste and the large concentration of people near the coast are also adding to the problem. If no intervention was to take place, it is predicted that by 2025, Senegal will produce plastic waste exceeding 700,000 metric tons. For comparison, by 2025, the US is expected to have 337,000 metric tons of plastic waste.
The first African Plastic Credits Project
In a joined initiative by ACC and Aither Group, the Deekali Plastic Recovery West Africa: Recycling, Reuse, and Community Action was introduced, and it is the first plastic credits project in Africa. This project collaborates with local partners; ACC, a Senegalese-based company and subsidiary of Aither Group, developed and introduced a plastic credit program for the collection and recycling of plastic waste. ACC is the project developer that initiated and organized the local partners, enabling them to apply for plastic credits successfully. ACC also monitors the Deekali project and verifies all project activities. Within the collaboration between ACC and its partners, the collection and recycling data are coordinated, and activities are monitored starting from the collection stage until the final product while confirming the compliance of program activities and traceability to generate plastic credits. The impacts of project activities (i.e., social, economic, and environmental) are monitored by ACC, which arranges meetings with stakeholders to keep them informed and evaluate their project activities. ACC also provides its partners with administrative, capacity-building, and financial support.
The Deekali project bears numerous positive outcomes. Specifically, it can lead to a major elimination of plastic waste from the area, educate the population about the plastic collection, recycling, and the damaging effects of plastic waste, decrease the amount of microplastic toxins in the environment, create job opportunities, and improve the economy in the region, reduce GHG emissions, reduce air pollution caused by the burning of plastic waste, and generate plastic recovery and recycling credits. The Deekali Project is in alignment with the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Clean Water and Sanitation, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Life Below Water, and Life on Land.
Considering the urgent need for a drastic change in Senegal’s current waste management system and the surrounding region, our project is prepared to lead and create the change needed and provide sustainable options.