In 2018, around 6.9 million tonnes of plastic pollution was discarded by coastal countries in West Africa.
Most of these are single-use plastic containers for drinking water or sanitary purposes. In West Africa, the use of plastic products is increasing with urbanisation.
The cost of marine pollution in West Africa is estimated at between $10,000 and $30,000 per tonne of plastic in the ocean. Furthermore, Plastic can persist for centuries, making it a major stress factor in marine ecosystems.
Fishing, biodiversity, tourism and ecosystems are all affected. Plastic waste can affect fisheries by reducing fish yields and damaging fishing gear such as nets and boat propellers. Accordingly, it drives down market prices for products contaminated by plastic and associated chemicals.
Plastic pollution of beaches and offshore waters could also lead to a reduction in tourist activity. Biodiversity is declining and slowly dying out. Leatherback turtles, which nest on beaches, are among the victims. They die from ingesting plastic, which they mistake for jellyfish.
The initatives to fight agaisnt plastic pollution
That is why a number of initiatives have been launched in Gabon to put an end to plastic pollution. In Libreville, people have been fined for littering. Public awareness needs to be raised and people made more responsible.. That’s an important part of the fight against pollution. Everyone has to play their part.
For instance, the NGO Réseau gabonais pour l’environnement et le développement durable (RGEDD), in partnership with the Autorité nationale des parcs nationaux (ANPN) and with the support of elements of the French army in Gabon (EFG), cleaned up the Raponda Walker Arboretum.
Due to the difficulty to access the beach, The French Fennec helicopter was used to evacuate the 5 x 100 kg bags of rubbish.
Collecting waste is not enough. It has to be treated to improve waste collection and recycling. In Gabon, the Mindoubé landfill receives 700 tonnes of waste per day, or 80% of the country’s waste. As a result, the landfill has been saturated since 2014.
To tackle this problem, France and Gabon signed an agreement at the One Forest Summit in March 2023 to clean up the landfill. Thus, this operation will put an end to the safety risks, toxic fumes and air pollution. It will also help develop the local economy, create jobs and train young people in recycling.