In 2011, James Wakibia became increasingly angered by the plastic pollution he saw throughout the Kenyan town of Nakuru, according to the UN.

He saw plastic bags, plastic bottles, and plastic detritus strewn along streets, piling up in lakes, and poorly managed at dumpsites.

So he decided to do something.

Take Action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

Wakibia began writing articles, sending letters to editors, and posting on social media to raise awareness of the harms of plastic pollution and the alternatives available, he explained in an interview with the UN.

He also used photography to convey the scale of the problem.

“I literally became obsessed with demanding a complete ban on single-use plastic bags,” he told the UN.

Read More: The Long, Strange Journey of a Plastic Bag

Wakibia’s dedication eventually earned the attention of politicians throughout the country and he helped to spur a larger movement throughout the country.

In 2017, the Kenyan national government enacted a ban on single-use plastic bags, becoming a pioneer in the global effort to end plastic waste.

“The plastic bag ban was the way to go,” Wakibia told the UN. “Kenya made a major stride by banning single-use plastic bags.”

“I would love all countries choking with plastic waste to start phasing out single-use plastic bags, straws, cups, forks, etc., and encourage other nations to emulate Kenya by banning all single-use plastic bags,” he added.

Read More: This Whale Died From 64 Pounds of Plastic in Its Stomach

All around the world, activists are calling for an end to the production of single-use plastic.

More than 16 countries and cities have banned single-use plastic, hundreds of companies have vowed to reduce plastic, and scores of plastic alternatives have sprung up in recent years.

This surge has mostly been driven by vivid depictions of plastic waste, evidence of how the world is being overrun by plastic.

For example, the movement against plastic straws has been partly spurred by images of animals tormented by them after being discarded.

Read More: ‘Tornado of Plastic’ Envelops Photographer in Indonesia

More than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been created since 1960, weighing as much as 1 billion elephants, and 75% of this plastic hasn’t been recycled, according to a report published in Science Advances.

If current trends continue, 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will exist in the world by 2050. That’s 1.6 metric tons — or the size of a midsize car — for every human on the planet.

But activists like Wakibia show that this fate is not inevitable, that dependence on plastic can be overcome, and that taking action makes a difference.

Global Citizen campaigns to end the production of single-use plastic and you can take action on this issue here.


Defend the Planet

Fed Up With Plastic, This Man Got Kenya to Ban It

By Joe McCarthy