Winners and finalists
Plastic Won’t Reach the Beaches
Urban and Public Design
The dramatic mudslide in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on August 14, 2017, which caused more than 1000 lives, was mainly caused by waterways clogged by plastic debris. It triggered SLSGC to extend their waste management activities to plastic recycling to help prevent local flooding and reduce marine pollution, which threatens fishery along Sierra Leon’s coast, on which a large share of the protein intake of its inhabitants depend. A large amount of plastic waste in the Western Rural Area, where one tenth of Sierra Leone’s population lives, located on a peninsular with a long coastline, is directly flushed into the ocean. Plastic recycling projects have mainly focused on the urban area, the capital Freetown, leaving the Western Rural Area largely aside. The project’s objective is to drastically reduce the amount of plastics that reaches the beaches and the ocean from Sierra Leone’s Western Rural Area and assure the sustainability of its activities by supporting entrepreneurial recycling plastic waste and linking the initiative to improvements of the curriculum of ten schools in the area, including entrepreneurship training and topics relevant for plastic recycling and replacement. Together with teachers and students of these schools, SLSGC organized repeatedly large beach cleaning activities, also financed by The European Union in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. At the Freetown Aberdeen – Lumly Beach. SLSGC has been among the final contenders of The European Union Pitch Night event with a project to produce alternatives to small water sachets from seaweed, solving two problems at the same time (plastic pollution and seaweed invasion of Sierra Leone’s coasts). In 2020, SLSGC received a grant from Ocean Conservancy, which made it possible to lay the foundation for a plastic recycling infrastructure. With the present project, SLSGC wants to address marine pollution, job creation and increasing public awareness in an integrated way. It is the close cooperation between the entrepreneurial activities and the close cooperation with 10 schools and the contribution to their curriculum which makes the project feasible and sustainable, because students help to collect the plastic waste, and the schools benefit from additional teaching material addressing concrete problems. The project entails three closely related components. a) To prepare, test, and disseminate a context specific ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ curriculum at ten schools in the Western Rural Area This curriculum, ultimately for schools all over Sierra Leone, covers all aspects of the reduction of the use of plastics and increased plastic recycling to increase awareness of the impact of plastics on the environment and to reduce (and eliminate) plastic waste being washed into the ocean. The modular curriculum will be structured in a way that makes it easy to integrate parts into different subjects (English language, biology, geography, chemistry, entrepreneurship). It would include handouts that can be distributed to students and suggestions for instruction for the teachers. The Dutch Foundation Technotrends organizes cooperation with a school in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands (as part of the city’s programme ‘Utrecht 4 Global Goals’) to produce common teaching material and exchange experience regarding avoiding plastics and plastic recycling. b) Translating awareness into action School going youth and their families are mobilized to turn awareness into concrete action and clean up their environment and prevent any plastic waste to end up in water ways. The project combines the curricular activities with physical experience and plastic collection in the Western Rural Area. There is already considerable recycling activity in Freetown itself, but hardly in the Rural Area. The direct personal exposure to the tremendous volume of plastic waste helps to strengthen the awareness and the commitment to act. At the same time, the collection (and sorting of) collected plastic creates the basis for the third component, the processing of plastic waste into saleable products. c) Recycling entrepreneurship To make the programme sustainable, collected plastic waste will be transformed into new products. The earnings from these sales provide the participating schools, students, and SLSGC with an additional income, while making goods useful for individual consumers and communities. Students are given the opportunity to follow a highly practical entrepreneurship programme and learn to produce ropes and various other objects of daily use from plastic (such as ponchos, bags, purses, waste bins, ….) and when the equipment is acquired to melt the plastic into tiles and poles, a broader range of plastics can be recycled at a larger scale. The first phase of the project has been largely completed. Initial teaching material has been compiled and is actually tested. Space near a vocational training centre has been leased, and two containers have been placed on the ground to host tools in a secure way. The next step will be the acquisition of a machine that will allow to crush plastic bottles and to smelt the plastic to produce pavement tiles.