Why this focus?
SOS ADDIS works towards eradicating plastic waste and air pollution in Ethiopia. We give the highest priority to eradicating pollution by flimsy plastic bags, and then to pollution by other plastics. Here is why we focus in these issues.
Discarding the Plastics = Discarding the Precious Oil
Plastics are generally made from fossil oil. Here are some figures regarding how much oil is used to make plastics:
- 12 million Barrels of oil is used to make the plastic bags that the U.S. consumes annually. (*1)
- Plastic account for 6% of total petroleum consumption in Japan as of the year 2002. (*2)
- It is estimated that 4% of the world's annual oil production is used as a feedstock for plastics production and an additional 3-4% during manufacture. (*3)
It is true that plastics have a lot of advantages. However, we must realize that discarding the plastics is a synonym of discarding the precious oil. Considering that fossil oil is not a renewable energy, we have the responsibility towards the next generation to wisely utilize the energy.
Immature Solid Waste Management Capability of Ethiopia Creates More Problems
In Ethiopia, solid waste management schemes are still under the development. This magnifies the threat from plastic waste. It is said that around 25% of total solid waste is thrown away without being collected in Ethiopia (*4).
The waste plastics in an open field pose the biggest problem. Accumulating plastic bags and plastic bottles along the riverside or streets are now becoming common scenery in many Ethiopian cities, damaging the otherwise beautiful landscape of Ethiopia. Since plastics are not easily degradable, the plastic waste may continue to pile up until it transforms the original beautiful landscape into the mountain of waste.
Some people burn the plastic waste with other waste in their backyards. Although this practice does not result in the mountain of plastic waste, it creates even more serious problem of polluted air by emitting poisonous gas such as dioxine.
(*4) Figure from "Clean and Green Addis Ababa Development Plan (CGADP) (2004 - 2025)" by Clean and Green Addis Ababa Society
Plastic Bags in an Open Field - the Most Dangerous
Of all plastic waste, waste plastic bags are the most harmful when thrown in an open field. Here are some potential problems from plastic waste in open field:
- Degrades Sanitation: Plastic bags, when thrown in a gutter, clog the water flow. The blocked water will form an ideal environment for mosquitoes and other harmful insects, degrading the general sanitation of the neighborhood.
- Kills Cattles: A cow, in search of a food, sometimes eats plastic bags.
- Affects the growth of plants: When buried, it prevents the plants from absorbing nutrition and water. When it is clogged to a branch, it prevents the trees from growing.
Waste Plastic Poses Problems Even When Collected
Even when collected, plastic wastes still pose a big problem. In Ethiopia, collected plastic waste is dumped in a mixed landfill with other solid wastes. According to the Bagging Plastic bags, it is estimated that a plastic bag could take up to 1000 years to decompose. Also, plastic waste may prevent otherwise degradable waste from decomposing. This poses a significant problem on already tight landfill space.
Can We Do Something About This?
The most effective solution is to "avoid using nondurable plastic products." Do you really need so many plastic bags? Can't you just carry your grocery in your own bag? Whenever possible, refuse receiving the plastic bag at the cashire, or at least reduce the amount of plastic bags by putting different products in one plastic bag.
However, in today's word, it is very difficult to entirely avoid using nonduable plastic products. If you happen to use a nondurable plastic product, try to reuse it as much as possible. For example, you can bring an old plastic bag when you do your shopping. When the nondurable plastic product becomes no longer reusable, contact SOS Addis (or any similar organization in your area if you don't live in Ethiopia) to recycle the product. Accroding to the homepage of a study has concluded that 1.8 tonnes of oil are saved for every tonne of recycled polyethene produced. By supporting the recycling initiatives, we will help conserve the precious fossile oil energy for the next generation.