— Guarantees a plastic-free society while providing job opportunity to less privileged
The Ever Green Recycling Institute (EGRI), a social enterprise organization, has launched an awareness campaign against plastic waste pollution in the country.
Plastic trash has become a point of attention in the country as water companies use it to package drinking water for sale. However, with weak sanitation and unenforced city ordinance laws, Liberians are habitually found littering plastic trash and other items in the street without care for the health and environmental consequences.
EGRI’s campaign, which was launched recently in Paynesville City, is intended to define a step-wise business approach that simultaneously guarantees a plastic-free society while providing job opportunity for less privileged members of the Liberian society.
Since the launch, EGRI continues to collect and process tons of plastic waste on a daily basis.
EGRI will also pilot the development/advancement of technology for plastic wastes management, particularly converting mixed plastic wastes into high-grade fuel oil or current electricity as alternative livelihoods to be used on farms, in villages and towns where Artisanal and small-scale mining is carried out in Liberia; provide awareness and education on plastic waste management strategies in general, which includes biodegradable plastics, recycling and reducing the plastic wastes menace in the country.
At the launch event, John G. Smith, EGRI Chief Executive Officer (CEO), brought attention to the challenges being faced by the vast majority of Liberians who lack safe drinking water as the nation strives to recover from a decade-and-half long devastating civil war. This situation, he added, is particularly prominent in urban areas characterized by high population densities.
He highlighted that Montserrado County, with nearly a quarter of the nation’s population, which hosts the political capital Monrovia, currently lacks pipe-borne water for more than eighty percent of its inhabitants.
Smith also stated that the situation is even worse in urban areas outside of Monrovia. As a result, he said, there is a proliferation of small-holder plastic sachet water companies that are engaged in packaging low-cost potable water.
“This has led to increased importation and local production of plastic pouches. Liberia already faced with enormous challenges in solid waste management is totally unprepared to handle the increased plastic waste that is more and more making Liberia’s urban communities unsafe and hazardous,” Smith asserted.
Additionally, the EGRI CEO said lightweight plastics are commonly used as carry-bags for goods bought from commercial centers such as supermarkets, provision shops and food shops.
“These bags are eventually discarded and end up on garbage sites and drainages onward to nearby water bodies and beaches alike. The combined effect of these plastic wastes is the subject of concern by many environmental activists and institutions in Liberia,” he noted.
The Administrative Manager for EGRI, Ignatius T. Weah, went on to highlight that EGRI is passionate in its campaign to avert the plastic waste threat to “our society considering that these wastes do not only threaten the aqua ecosystem but also host dangerous properties that can be harmful to human health when not properly disposed of.”
Weah added: “EGRI intends to avert that by turning plastic waste materials from those leeward urban cities into petroleum products to guarantee the year-round provision of said products to support the transportation sector in the affected areas.”
He further said that EGRI was established for the purpose of recycling waste plastic and rubber materials, and it is poised to transform waste plastic materials from various communities into finished products.
According to him, EGRI comprises committed professionals who are currently involved in the collection of waste plastics from various communities to a central collection site for processing.
The challenges posed by plastic waste in Liberia will be converted into opportunities for employment along with the provision of competitive low-cost products for the local markets across the country, he noted.
Weah said urban cities in leeward counties are usually cut off from major commercial centers due to impassable roads during the peak of the six-month-long rainy season experienced in Liberia each year.
These road cut-offs, according to him, are usually accompanied by a shortage of petroleum products which leads to increase in the prices of these essential commodities in said affected areas.
“The desire to establish EGRI stems from the realization (through repeated research) that plastic materials can be recycled into finished products, such as hydrocarbon fuels and low-cost roofing sheets among other local essential commodities that are daily required in our society.
“This is boosted by the fact that tons of plastic materials are littered around in communities, drainages and aquatic bodies especially in urban areas. These unmanaged plastic wastes continue to build up at an alarming rate and constitute an environmental hazard in urban cities across Liberia and elsewhere in neighboring countries,” he added.
Franco Grimes, Chief of Staff in the office of Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee, thanked the EGRI for partnering with them for the implementation of the Project. He said the majority of plastics that end up in the ocean originated from land through land-based sources of pollution; hence, the focus on addressing land-based plastic pollution starts with the implementation of land management practices.
A representative of the UNDP, Samuel Boakai, said he was impressed with what is happening in Liberia, especially when it comes to waste management.
“We are piloting this program and I am happy that the MCC representative said they are going to work with EGRI so, in our next program cycle, we have decided to allocate some funds that will address some of these issues,” Boakai noted.
He said UNDP wants to ensure that Evergreen gets the needed support to fast track their initiative, which will enable young and disadvantaged ones to be able to have something to do at the end of the day.
EGRI is a legal entity that was established on February 14, 2017, by a group of young, dedicated and innovative Liberians involved in a number of extensive research initiatives across the country. It is currently being supported by the Environmental Impact Solution Incorporated (EISI) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).