Authorities in Senegal are planning to crack down on polluters by imposing fines and further restricting plastic use. This even as it faces ever-growing mounds of cheap plastic bags.
The West African country, whose beaches on the Atlantic attract tourists from all over the world, is one of the world’s biggest contributors to ocean plastic despite having a population of just 15 million.
A study in 2010, reported by the journal Science, put it 21st out of all nations for quantity of waste being dumped in the sea – with 254,770 tonnes, only just behind the United States, a vastly bigger economy with many times more people and coastline.
Across Senegal, plastic containers are strewn across roads, often with goats and cows feeding on them, while rubbish can be seen floating in the sea.
Globally, public awareness is growing about the harm being done by plastic, which hurts marine life and instead of biodegrading breaks down into ubiquitous microplastics.
According to science writer Mike Berners-Lee, of the nine billion tonnes of plastic ever produced, 5.4 billion has been dumped onto land or the sea – enough to shrink wrap the planet in clingfilm.
In Senegal, a 2015 law banned the most common thin polythene bags but was never applied. Grocers wrap individual items, even blobs of cheese, butter and coffee in copious plastic.
Environmental officers in Senegal are planning to hold public gatherings to inform people about the negative effects of plastics for health, fishing and farming.
Thirty-four African countries have tried to use laws to curb plastic use since South Africa banned plastic bags in 2003, according to the U.N. Environment Programme.