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Bringing the plastic pollution war closer to home in Kenya

 

Global nations have come to realise that plastic pollution is choking our oceans, causing irreversible damage to marine biodiversity and ecosystem health.

We’re bringing the plastic pollution war closer to home in Kenya. It’s time for everyone to connect the dots and start bending the curve – reversing the decline in wildlife. This cannot wait for tomorrow, it has to be done today.

The problem

Over the last decade we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Modern lifestyles, where plastics are used by many as “single-use”, combined with global population growth has meant the production and use of plastics has just exploded. And with the explosion, came the pollution.

Plastic pollution is threatening marine life © Brent Stirton/Getty Images/WWF-UKPlastic pollution is threatening marine life © Brent Stirton/Getty Images/WWF-UK

To worsen the case, nearly all the plastic ever created still exists in some form today. According to the UN, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, while 79% has accumulate in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.

Marine trash collected with WWF-Kenya (Credit: Hassan Mohamed)Marine trash collected with WWF Kenya © Hassan Mohamed

The UN Oceans chief recently stated that:

“This is a planetary crisis… we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean.”

 

If the current production and usage of plastic continues, in few years’ time, we will have more plastic in the oceans than fish!

The impact

The impact of plastics in the sea is huge. Larger marine mammals can easily be entangled, while others mistake plastic for food. For example, sea turtles cannot distinguish jellyfish from plastic bags and once consumed they cause internal blockages often leading to death.

Turtle eating plastic bag ©Paulo Oliveira / Alamy Stock PhotoTurtle eating plastic bag ©Paulo Oliveira / Alamy Stock Photo

Over time, plastic waste slowly breaks down into tiny micro-fragments, which we can easily find back on our own plates though fish and other seafood.

World Environment Day

We joined other global nations in the celebration of this year’s World Environment Day, celebrated on 5 June each year. It was a great honour for us in Kwale to host the whole country of Kenya.

In response to global concern, and to create awareness of the danger of plastic pollution, the theme for this year’s celebration was;
“Beat plastic pollution” with local slogan…, if you can’t reuse, refuse it.

Deputy President (left) listening to Kaya elder during visit to WWF Kenya stand. World Environment Day celebrations at Kwale (Credit: Lily Mwasi).Deputy President (left) listening to Kaya elder during visit to WWF Kenya stand. World Environment Day celebrations at Kwale © Lily Mwasi

WWF Kenya partnered with the National Environment Management Authority of Kenya (NEMA) to co-host the event – graced by the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya among other high ranking dignitaries.

Protecting our environment and wildlife

A key outcome of the event was a firm commitment by the government to continue enforcing Kenya’s ban on plastic bags which was declared in 2017. The government also strongly committed to invest heavily in maximising opportunities of the Blue Economy – promoting the sustainable use of ocean resources to spur national economic growth.

Kenya CEO, Mohamed Awer (middle), the Minister for Environment and Lily Mwasi planting Mangrove seedlings as part of World Environment Day celebrations.Kenya CEO, Mohamed Awer (middle), the Minister for Environment and Lily Mwasi planting Mangrove seedlings as part of World Environment Day celebrations.

Equally important was the declaration that the government will support the implementation of the National Mangrove Management Plan. This will help protects our precious mangrove forests.

Fighting the war against plastic

During the World Environment Day celebrations in Kwale, WWF Kenya CEO, Mr. Mohamed Awer, declared our commitments to work with the government and communities in the war against plastic pollution.

We will continue providing solutions and opportunities to communities to develop their livelihoods; a good example being “trash to cash” initiative being undertaken by Lamu women.

Marine Plastic Debris. Coastal Kenya (Credit: Hassan Mohamed)Marine Plastic Debris. Coastal Kenya © Hassan Mohamed

We will also continue to:

  • work with students to create awareness on the need to reduce usage of plastics;
  • lobby governments to ban use of all plastics;
  • support county level governments to develop laws and build capacity to improve management of solid waste.

WWF’s Coastal Kenya Programme is kindly supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Size of Wales. We are very grateful for the continued support.
Want to help? You can adopt a turtle today!

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