Recycling plastic bags in Kinshasa

Collecting, processing and recovering plastic bags as a source of revenue and solution for environmental pollution

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BJ Benin

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Web http://www.chaka.be/doc/valorisation_des_dechets_plastiques.pdf
Maturity

Concept

About the project Edit

cA fundamental issue for managing solid waste in Kinshasa is collecting, processing and recovering plastic bags. To do so, ISF tested operationalizing a pilot recycling chain as an economic development and sanitation model. The project supports all the stages in the chain of activities that leads to recovering plastic bags by proposing innovative solutions such as: collecting by independent stakeholders, centralizing waste at purchasing counters, transforming simple and accessible techniques and reselling to local industry. The project aims to expand this type of chain in collaboration with private and institutional sanitation stakeholders in Kinshasa. Expansion requires capital, and dissemination of know-how.

Themes

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

The project is unique in that it combines sanitation of the environment (removing used plastic bags that pollute the environment), retrieval and a partial solution for poverty (creating jobs and earnings). Moreover, it applies a methodology based on applying appropriate techniques to the local context, meaning:

- simple and adapted technique: manufacturing, operating, servicing and maintaining machines and tools essentially pass through the local market (recovery parts, local know-how…) – south transfers – south to adopt new technologies (capitalizing on experiences in Egypt, Mexico, West Africa…

This methodology guarantees certain financial accessibility to investment.

From a “materials” perspective, waste is plastic bags made from polyethylene, high or low density (HDPE #2 or 4). Practically speaking, it’s water bags extensively sold in the streets.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The social value is that it creates work for the poorest people in the slums who sort used plastic materials. Moreover, it applies a methodology based on applying appropriate techniques to the local context, meaning:

- simple and adapted technique: manufacturing, functioning, servicing and maintaining machines and tools essentially pass through the local market (recovery parts, local know-how…)

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The potential for expanding this initiative should not be underestimated. Neighbouring cities and countries depend on the experience to adapt to their socio-economic context. Benin had a similar experience and wants to develop a chain. Togo is just starting its experience.

Plastic bags are used widely as packaging in the sub-region and make up a large proportion of household waste.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Triggering factors are:

- waste invading public space, especially plastic bags widely used by the population that is particularly unsightly and damaging
- the poorest of the poor live close to plastic waste
- similar experiences in neighbourhoods (in the sub-region)

In fact:

- Plastic bags encourage the spread of malaria because bags block drainage that leads to stagnant water resulting in the proliferation of mosquitos

- They contribute to flooding, poor state of the roads and restricted access to neighbourhoods. Buried bags seal the soil and draining rainwater is essentially diverted to gutters that are too small, defective or inexistent. When it rains, water gushes to the rivers through the streets, flooding houses and damaging road surfaces where they exist.

- Soil sealing also adversely affects urban agricultural production.

- Livestock also suffers from too much plastic with deadly consequences for goats and other animals who suffocate on the bags.

- Without organized waste collection, specific initiatives tend to incinerate plastic which in turn generates noxious fumes that dangerously pollutes the environment.

- The plastic littering the streets is so ugly that the city formerly referred to as “Kin’ the Beautiful” has been renamed “Kin’ the Trash” in the last few decades.

It should be noted that the government regularly bans or taxes bag producers, but these policies are hollow.

However, plastic is a recoverable material with economic value and it is possible to transform this sanitation problem into an opportunity to create activities that generate revenue for the poorest of populations.

While many stakeholders in Kinshasa and Africa recycle hard plastic like containers and basins, ISF notes that bags are rarely recovered because:

- their lightness and weight complicates specific collection and transportation logistics

What is the business model of this project? Edit

In addition to its environmental impact, the project is looking to contribute to local economic development as part of supporting a private initiatives network (micro business) to collect, sort, shred, wash and dry. Perfectly integrated into the local community landscape, these initiatives are a beneficial supply source of recycled plastic for manufacturers of finished ';''lllkproducts (pipes, electrical insulation, sprinklers, seals…). Recycled plastic has partially or totally replaced new raw material.


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