Arriving in Watamu after a matatu – or local minibus – ride from Mombasa, I met Steve Trott, a positive, always smiling man. He is Projects Development Manager of the Watamu Marine Association – or WMA, which is an association of tourism, community and environmental groups working to develop community-based tourism enterprises, community waste management enterprises and to conserve the beaches and ocean in the area. Shortly before I made my visit, they had collected more than 14,000kgs of plastic waste at their annual big Coastal Cleanup, which took place in 12 coastal locations along the whole kenyan coast in a clean-up lasting 3 hours.
Steve told me about the structure of the WMA and the projects they are working on, before sending me off with the Blue Team for the daily beach cleanup. While collecting, they already sort into two sections right away: proper plastics and other waste. The collected waste is then brought to the recycling center.
The construction of the recycling center in 2014 showcases a number of different solutions for using glass and plastic bottles for walls and floors. Embedding glass bottles into concrete bricks revealed a number of advantages; the process is quick, cheaper than standard materials such as brick or quarry stone, and allows light or even air circulation (through making small holes in the base of the bottles) as well as an attractive aesthetic.
At the recycling center the waste is sorted and recycled or reused in form of composting, permaculture, bio-fuel briquette making as an alternative to charcoal, bio-gas production and art and crafts from flipflops or plastics, which can be sold to tourist outlets - the whole place is like an exhibition of recycling solutions in many areas and is now known as EcoWorld Watamu. But the most profitable part is selling crushed plastics.
Of course I couldn’t wait to experience working with the plastic shredder, so I joined Willy and Chikuchi for the day‘s duty. Nearly three hours of shredding 187kgs of plastic (ear protection and dust mask urgently needed) were enough to make me feel the physical work for days!
Steve has many more ideas and visions. Besides turning the recycling center into a demo site for small environmental technologies and best practices, they have just opened a shop made from waste bottles which sells natural health products and recycled artwork made by local community members. WMA aims to achieve a plastic-free Watamu as a role model for other Kenyan villages and resort towns.
Oh, and I got a new contact: Regeneration Africa, a fencing post producing factory in Malindi.
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