WasteAid has received grant funding from UK Aid to run a two-year plastics recycling programme in the Gambia. The project will capture plastic waste from the coastal town of Gunjur and turn it into useful products to stop it reaching the ocean.

Local partner organisation, The Gambian Trust Agency For Rural Development (TARUD) is currently overseeing the construction of a workshop on land gifted by Gunjur council. Once built, the workshop will provide a training centre for plastic waste reprocessing and sustainable waste management, which local members of TARUD will run.

The funding from UK Aid runs until 2020, during which time some ninety women, young people and people with disabilities will benefit from direct training, with broader health, environmental and economic benefits for the entire population of Gunjur.

WasteAid’s Zoë Lenkiewicz is heading to the Gambia this month to carry out baseline surveys about people’s current attitudes and behaviours towards waste. She will be working with delivery partner Women’s Initiative the Gambia to develop tailored surveys to be able to measure and monitor progress over the duration of the project.

Over the two-year programme WasteAid hope to create lasting national demand for these tiles that do not require any cement or water in their manufacture. The tiles are more durable than concrete and can be sold at a lower price.

Another element of the project will be to train local trainers. Longstanding WasteAid partner Women’s Initiative the Gambia, will be learning how to teach plastic recycling skills to impoverished communities in other parts of the country.

Plastic bags were banned in the Gambia in 2015, although drinking water is sold in flexible LDPE pouches and many other products are still packaged in single-use plastic. PET drinks bottles have a strong re-use cycle, and tend to be used many times over before becoming waste. WasteAid will be analysing all the different types of plastic that require disposal and working to find markets or processes for as much as possible, with the aim of ensuring none reaches the ocean.

With no waste management provision in the town of Gunjur, people have no option currently other than to burn or dump their waste. It is commonplace, for example, for mothers to burn plastic waste as a cooking fuel. It sets alight easily, but produces black smoke that can harm the eyes, skin and respiratory system and lead to serious health problems, especially for children.

Meanwhile, dumped waste ends up on informal dumpsites where livestock can ingest it, leading to starvation and a premature and painful death. If plastic is thrown into riverbeds or drainage channels, it can lead to flooding which contributes to the seasonal spike in water-borne and mosquito-borne diseases.

WasteAid hope that by teaching people the dangers of mismanaging waste, and providing positive alternatives, the town of Gunjur can become an exemplar in sustainable waste management.

“Helping communities manage their plastic waste has never been more important. We’re delighted to have the support of UK Aid Direct to develop simple waste management and plastics recycling skills in The Gambia. WasteAid will be training a coastal community in plastics recycling, creating green jobs and making useful products. We will also be training local trainers, so they can spread waste management and recycling skills around the country.” Zoë Lenkiewicz

About WasteAid

WasteAid UK is an independent charity set up by waste management professionals to share practical waste management skills with communities in low-income countries.

Around 1 in 3 people globally don’t have decent waste management.  Pollution caused by waste harms people’s health and the environment. Plastic pollution in the marine environment is of major global concern, and WasteAid is helping tackle this global problem.

WasteAid works with communities to set up small recycling centres and help keep plastic out of rivers and the oceans. The charity also shares skills in managing organic waste, so that people can make compost and cooking fuel from food and garden waste. WasteAid also trains local trainers so that the knowledge can be passed on from community to community. All the tools and equipment used are simple and affordable, so that recycling and waste management can be accessible for everyone. 

About the project

The UK Aid Small Charities Challenge Fund grant was funded with UK aid from the UK government. It will be used to implement the first ever plastics recycling programme in The Gambia, creating green jobs and turning ocean-bound plastic waste into useful products.

WasteAid will train disadvantaged women, youths and people with disabilities to collect, sort and reprocess plastic waste, so that it becomes an economic asset instead of a pollution problem.

WasteAid will be working with TARUD, a community group in the coastal village of Gunjur, as well as Women’s Initiative The Gambia (WIG) who will be able to train other communities in the future.

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