Seriously, Kenyans, I love you. You have been so good to me, and I have loved spending the last two months with you. But sometimes, I just don’t understand you. Like: What’s the deal with all that littering?
You have such a beautiful piece of earth here. Why do you insist on scattering it with garbage? When walking or driving through Nairobi or even the countryside, I often find myself thinking: “This could be gorgeous – if it weren’t for the heaps and heaps of trash.”
To give you a feel for what I am talking about, here is little a “Worst of: Littering”:
I realize that there are several obstacles for a litter-free environment, one of them being the lack of proper, affordable garbage collection and disposal systems. In Germany, every household pays a small fee to get their garbage collected, seperated in different containers: organic, plastic and aluminium, paper, glass, and residual waste all go in different bins and are recycled accordingly. On top of that, we have a public bin on basically every corner in our towns.
This broad accessability makes it very easy to just throw your trash where it belongs, and you can be sure that it will end up being handled properly. Depending on your living circumstances, whether you live in a suburban estate, a slum, or on the countryside, it might not be as simple as that here in Kenya. It might take you a while to get to the next garbage container, which might already be overflowing with trash.
Despite those problems, it is worth rethinking the way we deal with our trash to help conserve the beauty of Kenya, not to speak of any hygiene issues. It starts with an individual effort, even if it might seem minor. So here are some tips to avoid littering. They’re probably not news to you, but may act as a reminder.
Use your power as a consumer
Money is our most powerful currency in changing the way big companies design their products. If we do not buy things that rely on a lot of plastic to package, they will eventually stop producing them. This also goes for self-packaging. When you buy produce at the market or the green-grocer’s, there is really no need to package every fruit individually. Have them weighed without any packaging, then pack them all together.
For those of you who think that it might be unsafe for your vegis to come in touch with a surface: Don’t you wash them at home? Because you should do that anyway to avoid eating all those pesticides and whatnot.
Bring your own bag
Probably the item that you see most often in those nasty mountains of garbage is a simple plastic bag. It makes me so mad, because those things are as harmful for the environment as they are unnecessary.
Here in Kenya, when you pay at the cashier, there is usually someone waiting already to bag everything for you, using tons of plastic bags. They are so quick about it, you have to really shout at them (of course in a friendly manner) to prevent them from doing it: “No bag necessary, please! I brought my own!” They will look at you with a very puzzled face, then slowly drop your purchased items and curiously watch while you fumble all your stuff into the backpack you brought. Totally worth it!
If you absolutely have to get plastic bags, for example if you go shopping spontaneously and did not think to bring your own bag, just store them away when you get home. You can get creative in reusing them for your next shopping trip, for keeping food fresh and seperated in the freezer, for holding your dirty laundry or shoes when you travel, or as trash bags for your bins.
Hold on to your garbage
Where’s a garbage can when you need one?? Many times, you’ll be out in nature or just in a place where there is no bin available. It breaks my heart whenever I am at a park or on a hill with a gorgeous panoramic view over Kenya’s natural wonders, only to have all this destroyed by a field of trash.
It is so easy. Just take your garbage with you and dispose of it properly as soon as you can. No excuses: If you had the room to pack whatever was wrapped in it, you’ll have room for packing away your trash.
If you want to learn more about the litter problem in Kenya and how to do your part in getting rid of it, check out Clean Up Kenya.