A few years ago we hosted a German exchange student, Max, for a semester. This summer he and his girlfriend, Teresa, went to Tanzania with the goal of helping local women start and grow businesses of their own. They quickly ran into a problem. Despite coming up with creative ideas, the women in charge of the program didn’t want help, and their efforts were refused. It was quite a disappointment, but out of adversity came opportunity.
Max and Teresa noticed that there was trash all over the community; huge piles with dogs, cows and goats rummaging through them. They learned that periodically trash would be gathered and burned, including plastic, which of course produces toxic emissions. They decided to put their time and efforts into not only cleaning up the mess, but involving the residents so that waste collection and recycling would continue after they returned home.
After successfully crowd funding (they met their goal in just a few days), materials were purchased to make four trash cans that were placed throughout the community. Meetings were held with residents, and a person was hired with a weekly wage to empty and maintain the trash cans. While plastic bottles can be sold to recycling centers in the city, other plastics, like bags, cannot. One idea is to use these non-recyclable plastics to make pillows which are wrapped in locally produced cloth.
St. Augustine University of Tanzania in Mwanza is very interested in not only keeping this project alive after Max and Teresa are gone, but in improving and expanding it. There are lots of obstacles to overcome, such as getting proper tools to pick up trash, which is sometimes half buried, but there is a strong desire by many in the community to overcome these obstacles and also to educate residents on the importance of proper waste disposal, adopting new habits, and maintaining cleaner, healthier neighborhoods.
I’d say it was a summer well spent! You can check out TRASHEROS on Facebook here.