Innovative plastics disposal for sustainable waste management

Peter Makwanya

THE presence of used plastics and failure to be properly disposed of or to decompose has posed enormous challenges for the environment, thereby generating lots of endless debates.

guest column Peter Makwanya

From a general point of view, used plastics are an eye-sore and an environmental menace.

While the world has not yet found better ways of disposing plastics without damaging the environment, innovations are key in managing the plastic garbage.

According to the three RRRs of environmental solid waste management, some plastics can be “Reduced”, “Recycled” and “Re-used”, but this has not been enough to clear them out of sight.

But a test case on how best to manage plastic waste and live side-by-side with them has been witnessed at Manyoni Primary School, situated in the remote district of Gokwe South.

Of course, the school lacks technological advancement and sophistication to crush the plastics and compress them into road surfacing material like what happens in developed countries.

It is their idea of how to manage the disposed of plastic containers, which is a milestone and can be the basis for more innovations and critical thinking in future.

The school’s initiatives could qualify for description by environmentalists as a transformative method.

That is transforming disposed plastic beer containers of Chibuku (local brew) into school path-ways, assembly lines and sewn-plastic bins for disposing litter.

These are simple, but critical local solutions that can be used to manage solid waste at a micro-level, with the ability to grow into macro-solutions with time and the availability of resources.

The manoeuvres by the school are simple and cost-effective as well as locally driven.

Speaking to the school head, a Mr Charuma, when we visited the school, he said: “The school is near a big business centre, where alcohol is consumed in large quantities, but the community carried out what it thought was the best method by dumping them at a large site, but the containers kept piling. So we took the used and dumped plastic containers from the dumpsite and re-used them to improve the beauty of our school.

“Some of the plastic containers, we used them to build nature-corners in the classroom, while we cut some containers and sew them to come up with flexible bins to dispose litter.”

Of course, the case of Manyoni Primary School is not the only one, but it is a microcosm of the macro initiatives that may be going on throughout the country.

Scientifically, the disposed plastics may release some toxins into the soil, while burning is not the correct solution, looking at the plastic heaps without coming up with innovative ideas regarding what to do with the plastics, is also not a solution.

According to the principle of environmental science, the immediate environment is the laboratory; people always study the environmental outlook and improvise in order to come up with sustainable environmental solutions for adaptation and resilient purposes.

Since the world has not yet fully found better methods of disposing plastics without compromising the environment, patent research activities need to be intensified in order to make sustainable breakthroughs.

These will be critical in ushering new impetuses in solid waste management as well as in unlocking new frontiers in taming this tenacious menace, which is threatening to change the outlook of the earth.

Stakeholders are encouraged to come up with versatile eco-friendly processes of dealing with the plastic menace, which has not only caused untold suffering to the environment and livestock, but also aquatic lives and the atmosphere.

Unearthing new methods of disposing plastics would actually go a long way in transforming waste disposal techniques, resulting in interesting and innovative approaches to sustainable development.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: