Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher-Public Enterprise)
MONDAY, June 5, 2023 marked World Environment Day, the largest commemoration of its kind globally, and this year’s theme is focused on addressing the pressing issue of plastic pollution.
Plastic waste has become an alarming problem in major cities worldwide, and the country’s capital Lusaka, is no exception.
As we reflect on the environmental and climatic concerns associated with plastic pollution, it is important to explore how we can leverage local resources and authorities to maximise our efforts as a country and create a sustainable solution.
The visible consequences of plastic pollution can be witnessed in our everyday surroundings. From overflowing rivers carrying plastic debris to littered streets adorned with plastic bags and packaging, the pervasive nature of plastic waste is undeniable.
The detrimental impacts extend far beyond aesthetics, infiltrating our waterways, endangering wildlife, and contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases during both the production and decomposition of plastics.
Immediate action is required to address this global crisis. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to explore effective solutions and leverage the available resources and authorities within our own communities.
By focusing on local initiatives and collaborations, we can maximise our efforts as a country and work towards a sustainable solution that protects our environment and preserves our natural heritage.
A growing threat to our environment
Plastic pollution poses a significant threat to our environment and ecosystems. From the overflowing rivers to the littered streets, the impact of plastic waste is visible in Lusaka and many other major cities across the world.
It contaminates our waterways, endangers wildlife, and contributes to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases during its production and decomposition. The time to act is now.
Inspiration from successful global examples
Looking beyond our borders, we find examples of countries implementing successful strategies to combat plastic pollution. Rwanda, for instance, has emerged as a global leader in this regard.
At Rwandan airports, strict measures are in place to prevent the entry of plastic items. This proactive approach has significantly reduced littering and serves as an inspiration for other nations to follow suit. By emulating such examples, we can work towards a cleaner and greener future.
Leveraging the Constituency Development Fund: A local approach
To address plastic pollution in Zambia, it is important to harness the power of local resources and authorities. One effective avenue is the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
As decentralisation gains traction, the CDF can be utilised to allocate funds and resources towards establishing recycling centres, conducting training programmes, and launching tailored awareness campaigns in each constituency.
This localised approach empowers communities and instils a sense of ownership towards the environment.
By utilising the CDF, local authorities can strategically allocate funds to establish recycling centres, facilitating the proper management of plastic waste.
These centres enable the collection, sorting, and processing of recyclable materials, reducing environmental impact. The CDF also supports training programmes that educate community members on waste segregation, recycling techniques, and sustainable practices. Additionally, targeted awareness campaigns can raise awareness about plastic pollution and encourage responsible waste management.
The CDF presents a unique opportunity for local communities to actively participate in the fight against plastic pollution. By working with local authorities, communities can implement effective solutions tailored to their specific challenges and needs. This approach maximises impact and fosters a sense of responsibility towards the environment.
Shifting mindsets: Reducing plastic consumption at the source
Moreover, a shift in mindset is crucial to reduce plastic consumption at its source. Encouraging businesses and consumers to adopt eco-friendly alternatives, such as reusable bags, biodegradable packaging, and sustainable materials, can have a significant impact on plastic waste reduction.
This requires cooperation between the government, private sector entities, civil society organisations, and citizens at large.
Incentivising recycling efforts and promoting a circular economy is another crucial aspect of addressing plastic pollution. Governments can introduce policies that encourage the use of recycled materials in manufacturing processes, provide tax incentives for recycling industries, and support research and development of innovative recycling technologies.
By doing so, we create an enabling environment for a thriving recycling sector while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste.
Education and awareness campaigns play a pivotal role in changing behaviours and promoting sustainable practices. Integrating environmental education into school curricula, organizing community events, and utilising various media platforms can raise awareness about the detrimental impacts of plastic pollution and inspire individuals to adopt eco-friendly habits.
When armed with knowledge and understanding, individuals become powerful agents of change.
Collaborative action for lasting change: A call to unity
To achieve lasting results, we must work together as a nation. The government, private sector, civil society organisations, and citizens must work together to implement effective waste management systems, establish recycling infrastructure, and enforce regulations that curb plastic pollution.
By taking decisive action now, we can safeguard our environment for future generations.
As we commemorate World Environment Week, and focus on the theme of plastic pollution, it is important that Lusaka and other major cities address the mounting challenge of plastic waste.
By drawing inspiration from successful global examples like Rwanda and Kenya, maximising local resources through initiatives such as the CDF, and prioritising education and awareness campaigns, we can combat plastic pollution effectively. Let us rise to the occasion and pave the way for a sustainable future, where our cities are clean, our ecosystems are thriving, and plastic pollution is but a distant memory.