Scenes of plastic clogging rivers and choking animals, news of microplastics contaminating water supplies, and a growing inability to process plastic waste in landfills have all contributed to a global zeitgeist against the substance.
In recent years, more than 60 countries have enacted policies to limit plastic use, multinational companies have invested in alternatives, and everyday people are challenging each other to embark on zero plastic challenges.
Emerging epicenters of this movement are in capital cities across Africa, where large-scale campaigns are being mobilized to eradicate plastic, according to the United Nations’ Environment Program (UNEP).
Take Action: Say No to Using Single-Use Plastics
Throughout the continent, countries have mobilized under the campaign “Beat Plastic Pollution” and have come up with innovative domestic solutions to find alternatives.
Some countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Morocco have flat-out banned single-use plastic bags, forcing businesses and consumers to use alternatives, and countries like Zimbabwe have targeted styrofoam with bans.
The global movement against single-use plastics is gaining momentum in Africa, with countries taking action to #BeatPlasticPollution for #CleanSeas 🌊https://t.co/2feKLM6BWf— UN Environment (@UNEnvironment) July 30, 2018
South Africa is taking a more gradual approach through a multi-year program encouraging consumers to bring reusable bags when shopping.
In Tanzania, youth activists are turning plastic bags into mattresses, according to UNEP, and in Ghana, an entrepreneur is converting plastic bags into a cheap form of asphalt.
Read More: The Long, Strange Journey of a Plastic Bag
Activists in the Ivory Coast have organized beach clean-ups to tackle ocean pollution, and campaigners in Egypt are trying to rid the Nile River of plastic.
Various other countries, including Cameroon, Mauritania, Nigeria, Eritrea, Botswana, and Ethiopia, are enacting similar campaigns to reduce plastic waste, according to UNEP.
The growing clout of the Beat Plastic Pollution campaign could eventually influence global power-broking bodies like the United Nations to enact sweeping restrictions on single-use plastics.
“The world is waking up to the fact that plastic pollution is one of the most urgent environmental issues of our time, but that it’s also something that we can solve,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said in a statement.
Earlier in the year, the UN floated an idea to significantly restrict the plastic that makes it into the oceans, and the G7 voted on a similar resolution this year.
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As Africa continues to lead on this issue, new models for consumption and production could also be developed, affecting how companies act in other countries.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.