EMPOWERING EARTH

Problem of plastic waste? It's sorted

The sorting area at a Proplast centre in Senegal. The company, which employs more than 100 women, was able to prevent the emission of 273 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air in just one year.
The sorting area at a Proplast centre in Senegal. The company, which employs more than 100 women, was able to prevent the emission of 273 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air in just one year.PHOTO: THE SUN

SENEGAL • Waste can be a gold mine. In 1997, a group of 14 women got together to open a plastic waste processing facility in Thies, 70km east of Dakar, under the supervision of an Italian non-governmental organisation. The rise in recycling activity led to the creation of the company Proplast in March 2010.

Proplast buys, recycles and resells plastic waste to Senegalese and foreign manufacturers.

Between five and six tonnes of waste are deposited at the Proplast office every day. In the sorting area, women pick up bits and pieces of bottles and containers, identify them, and sort them into basins according to material and colour. "Wages are far better than when we started in 1997," says a deputy director.

The sector has become a breeding ground for indirect jobs in the country. In the shredding unit, men empty bags into one of three shredders. Smaller material is recovered at the other end and cleaned for other purposes.

In Dakar, the company has set up plastic waste disposal kiosks that offer money in exchange for plastic waste, as well as sell items made from recycled plastic, such as chairs, bins and tables. Proplast plans to open such kiosks in regions across Senegal, with the aim of better structuring its waste collection chain.

The benefits for the local population are tangible: The streets and lanes of Thies are gradually becoming free of plastic waste. Every year, more than 1,500 tonnes of waste are processed.

Proplast, which employs more than 100 women, was able to prevent the emission of 273 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air in just one year. These women are at the heart of a revolution that has improved the lives of thousands of people in Senegal.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Problem of plastic waste? It's sorted'. Print Edition | Subscribe