Last week, driving through Bot River village, wind-blown plastic bags dominated the scrub bush and pine plantation on the edges of town.
Three weeks previously I drove over 1000km through Madagascar, and via many similar small villages – guess what? No plastic bags visible, at least not like in Bot River.
How can this be, I wondered? Do they have well functioning collection services? Are all their citizens fully aware about their environment? Are their volunteer clean –up teams just super efficient?
Well, none of the above. Firstly, Madagascar is lowest in the world in terms of generated municipal waste – just 9kg per person per year (compare America at 715 kg!). Secondly, wow, do they ever recycle!
Not to say there is no problem there. The capital, Antanarivo, has a huge municipal dump site, and only 20% of residents have their rubbish collected. There are many skips filled to overflowing in the streets of the capital.
But Recycling is king, but at an artisanal level, not by NGOs or Municipal services, although the government is really trying to address the problem.
But this is just about the poorest country in the world. There is no safety net, no monthly handouts, and no culture of entitlement.
People seem therefore to be driven to do something, such as driving bicycle taxis, rickshas, pulling hand carts, making clay bricks and firing them on the road side, making just about anything on road side markets from farm produce, to wooden toys, to hand-made paper, smelting aluminium from cans into pots, inlaid wooden artistic pictures, carvings, figurines – the list goes on.
Products made from recycled aluminium, at artisanal level
And yet the sight of plastic water bottles, the 2litre PET variety, seen floating down the rivers on the east coast drove me to dedicate Boaz to plastic awareness.
So what’s the lesson here? A poor country, but even much of the waste is valued. Definitely a cleaner country scene.
Perhaps we here in SA must appreciate more the resources we have, and turn waste into profit.
Waste not –want not.