By Tamba Borbor
Alfred Maada Fobay is the Waste Technician at Welthungerhilfe, an organization which aims to improve waste management in cities through institutional, infrastructure development and capacity building measures.
In this article Mr. Fobay presents how teachers, students, and parents in the city of Bo in Sierra Leone have been manufacturing eco-bricks using collected single use plastics.
Bo is Sierra Leone’s second city and just like many other cities in the developing world, it is grappling with ineffective and inefficient waste management activities. Waste collection and transportation coverage does not reach the entire city because of many factors, including poor road networks and inadequate waste management infrastructures. In addition to this, low personal income of the city’s inhabitants undermines the willingness and ability to pay for waste collection service fees. Consequently, there is a low level of waste education and awareness, the correlation between health and waste, is not known to many people.
The emergence of single use plastic as a significant fraction of the municipal waste in Bo is, particularly, a cause for concern. Roadsides, drainage systems, communities, swamps and streams are full of plastic. Children growing up in areas without waste collection suffer from respiratory illnesses, diarrhoea and increased incidences of both water and mosquito borne diseases.
Bo City welcomes, and is ready to collaborate with, partners for plastic solutions. There are many differing opinions regarding the solution to this problem, from a range of technological developments (including transformation into useful products) to an outright ban.
We are at a crucial moment in our development regarding the decision-making process. It is important to weigh up all the factors in planning for a sustainable future and grasp the opportunities in emerging innovative plastic solutions for Bo City. In 2019 One World Link (OWL), a community friendship organization between Bo District (Sierra Leone) and Warwick District (UK) in their Global School Partnership Programmes, chose a “Zero Waste” theme as a joint project for all 15 Schools. The key activity is the making of Eco-bricks out of single use plastic. The project aims to contribute to “saving the environment and development of low-cost and low health risk plastic treatment technology”. The impact is to create a safer environment for both flora and fauna, as well as human beings.
Eco-brick manufacture is a simple technology, whereby single use plastics are collected, washed, dried and packed into 250 millilitre PET bottle until a weight of 167g is achieved. The product can then be used as a material to build simple structures such as huts, flag posts, planters etc. School pupils are excited and highly motivated to keep their school environment free from this plastic menace and to be able to provide a practical solution to the waste. The enterprise has become an inclusive activity, with teachers and pupils working alongside each other in the spirit of cooperation. Many schools are achieving their goal of 100 Eco-bricks.
The manufacturing didn’t end in schools, with pupils and teachers sharing the work at home and involving family members. For example, Madam Alice Alpha, Head Teacher at R.C Madonna Primary School, Sewa Road, encouraged her own family to make Eco-bricks at her own house. Preparing Eco-bricks is becoming a favourite family pastime in Bo.
Many of the school children in Bo raised a couple of obvious questions. Namely, ‘What are we going to do with these bricks when they are completed? and ‘Are we just cleaning our school environment, or can they be put to a specific use?’ Fortunately, an innovative idea came up as to how to turn the Eco-brick into useful resource. In our joint OWL joint committee meeting (parent body and teachers group), we have agreed to build the first eco-hut at the OWL Centre in recognition of the effort of the children and symbol of their contribution to making a better environment. This is our dream.
About Alfred Maada Fobay
Mr. Alfred Maada Fobay is a highly qualified solid waste technician with numerous certifications ranging from municipal solid waste management to planning and design of sanitation systems and technologies. He specializes in helping developing countries create innovative solutions in handling their solid wastes.