Findings on Plastic for economic development research validated
The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs on Friday 22nd October 2021 hosted a validation workshop on the Findings of the Study on Plastic Waste in the Tourism Sector as part of the PROBLOUE Project that is being implemented under the Sierra Leone Economic Diversification Project. The study was conducted by a consultancy consortium comprising of Anteja ECG, VDI/VDE-IT and Manocap (Sierra Leone). The initiative which was described by the Minister of Tourism as ground breaking included stakeholders from the private sector – Sensi, the Arts and Crafts Market, the Fishermen Association of Lumley Beach and also from the public sector – National Tourist Board, Environmental Protection Agency, SLEDP and the World Bank.
The objective of the research is to provide an assessment of plastic consumption in the tourism sector and identify means of reducing plastic wastage by experimenting with other substitute materials for packaging. This was reiterated by the SLEDP Coordinator Mrs. Mary Jalloh who stated that the overall objective of the PROBLUE Project is to identify the sources of plastic waste in the economy and identify alternative sources as well as supporting the growth of the circular economy.
According to the report, nineteen (19) businesses comprising of hotels, restaurants, night clubs, fish and fruits centres across Lumley Beach, Bureh Beach, River No 2 and Tokeh Beach were interviewed on the use and disposal of various types of plastics. It also revealed that 41 different types of plastics are used by these businesses ranging from plastic bottles, bags, cutlery, water sachet, straws, and single use cups amongst others with 93% of these plastics imported with only 7% of such materials being produced in-country. Overall, 87% of the waste generated by hotels and restaurants are made up of plastics with 53% and 34% respectively with a further breakdown as follows; plastic bottles 28%, plastic bags 19%, cutlery 16%, straws 14%, pre-portioned food and sachets 7%, single use cups 6%.
The impact of these products after intended use has become a cause for concern in the tourism sector as they most often end up in the beaches. The Minister of Tourism called on all to work together to find ways of protecting the beaches and addressing long term issues that could have damaged effect on the environment. She attributed the current challenges with waste management on what she termed as ‘poor attitude’ stressing the need for a campaign targeting the wider public attitude and stakeholders’ campaign across the coastal communities.
The findings of the research were validated by participant business owners who buttressed the issues raised in the report. The Fishermen Association representative Saidu Freeman remarked that some of the plastic wastes were being used to backfill potential land around the Aberdeen coastal areas as most businesses tend to throw wastes directly into the sea. This he said has seen a decline in the number of fish caught by fishing boats as sometimes supposed catches turn out to be piles of plastic waste dumped in the sea.
Recommendations from participants include further collaboration with waste management agencies and MDAs, develop policies that gear the private sector towards proper waste management, collaborate with plastic producers though the Ministry of Trade to properly dispose of waste, contract outtakers to remove plastics from the environment, enforce a no plastic policy, ensure availability of other substitutes for packing in the market, government tax reduction on items geared towards going green etc.
The next steps for the consultancy and other stakeholders would be to develop policy guidelines for waste management based on findings of the research, work with an identified group of ‘Early Adopters’ of the plastic waste management scheme which is hoped to be rolled out to all users of plastic in the country and forward findings and recommendations to the Plastic leadership meeting scheduled for early 2022.