Recycling to Preserve Natural Forests and Increase Access to Medical Facilities

GLF 2017 Blog Competition
Christian Mwijage

Every year more than 9 million tones of plastic waste end up in our oceans threatening to marine life, and by the year 2050 there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean, Plastic pollution doesn’t just hurt marine species. It’s also harmful to people. As plastic debris floats in the seawater, it absorbs dangerous pollutants like PCBs, DDT and PAH. These chemicals are highly toxic and have a wide range of chronic effects, including endocrine disruption and cancer-causing mutations. Practically solid waste management is one of the environmental problems that most cities are struggling to manage. As the number of residents in most cities is increasing so is the production of solid waste.

Christian Mwijage is a founder of EcoAct Tanzania – a social enterprise established to address the challenges of plastic waste pollution, waste management, deforestation and climate change. They use an innovative plastic extrusion technology to recycle and transform post consumer waste plastics into durable and long lasting plastic lumbers, Plastic lumbers are affordable alternative to timbers, hence reduces the need for building material manufactured from wood, helping to preserve forests and cut down on deforestation and further mitigation of Climate change. Plastic lumbers which are ideal product for building, construction and furniture making are normally made in 10ft on average and shaped either round or square. Their technology ensures manufactured plastic lumbers do not rot, are termite resistant, are water proof and lasts more than 40 years without replacement whether used in sunny areas, marine or in water applications.

Tanzania generates about 14,800 tones waste every day of which 48% is plastic waste and packaging materials. Plenty of these solid wastes can be found everywhere within the city and round homes, streets ending to oceans. While both the local administrators and environmental legal bodies understands the health risks involved, the lack of financial and technological capability has left the city residents grasping for help. On the other hand, they saw forests are fast depleting, the growing demand for timber in building and construction activities was putting a lot of pressure on the country’s forests reserves and natural forests around Mount Kilimanjaro loosing over 400,000 hectares each year. They realized that If only they could produce an alternative product to timber that was strong, longer lasting, cheaper and environmentally sustainable, they could definitely profit from the profitable timber market while helping to save forests and preventing plastic waste and packaging materials ending into oceans then they launched this initiative.

They have developed a very unique garbage collection model, by launching “Garbage Medical Insurance” which is a micro health insurance program which uses plastic garbage as financial resources. Community pays clinic service using plastic garbage. This way the community mobilizes their own resources to improve health access and breakdown barrier between health facilities and community.

They have withdrawn over 5.5 million kilograms of plastic garbage from the environment preventing them ending into oceans, used them to manufacture plastic lumbers, saving an estimated 650 acres of forest that would have been cut and same time preventing 2,500,000 kg of CO2 emissions (that would have been caused by burning these plastic in landfills) further mitigating climate change, created jobs for 172 youth from marginalized communities and provided medical insurance to 54 families on exchange with their plastic garbage.

His initiative won the Africa Finance and Investment Entrepreneurship Award, The competition was organized by EMRC In Belgium, Supported by RaboBank to search for innovative Africa initiatives.

Also his initiative won the GIST Award (Global Innovation through Science and Technology Award), the competition that was organized by United States Department of State, looking for Africa innovative entrepreneurs.

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