Tag Archives: nairobi

It’s a Planetary Crisis – UN!!

ocean plastics getty
Getty images

Nations have agreed that the world needs to completely stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.  The third meeting of the UN Environment Assembly takes place 4th-7th December in Nairobi, Kenya with the overarching theme of pollution.

The UN resolution, which is set to be sealed at the Assembly, has no timetable and is not legally binding.  But ministers at the believe it will set the course for much tougher policies and send a clear signal to business.

A stronger motion was rejected after the US would not agree to any specific, internationally agreed goals.  Under the proposal, governments would establish an international taskforce to advise on combating what the UN’s oceans chief has described as a planetary crisis.

Environmentalists say ministers are starting to take plastic waste more seriously, but need to move much more quickly.  Li Lin from the green group WWF said: “At last we are seeing some action on this issue, but we still don’t have the urgency we need. The problem needs solving right now.”

top 10 plastic countries

One contentious issue is the wish of delegates to include businesses on the global taskforce.  Ministers say the problem will not be solved without business, but green groups point out that some firms in the plastics industry have been lobbying against restrictions for decades.

This links directly to Green Waste Enterprises Four Point Plan to fight this massive problem.

1. Educate people of all ages of the importance of recycling

2. Legislate to improve recycling laws in the USA and UK.

3. Take the plastic industry to task

4. Find a replacement for plastic that is biodegradable.

 

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister, a leading voice in the talks, told BBC News: “Business is listening to markets and seeing how marine litter is a growing popular concern.  “It’s possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem and it’s therefore a fast-growing problem for business.  “We need to bring on board those companies that want to change things, then look at taxes and regulations to make more companies act sustainably.  “We also need to mobilise businesses like aquaculture that suffer from marine pollution.”

Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, the UN oceans chief has warned.  Lisa Svensson said governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution.  “This is a planetary crisis,” she said. “In a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the ecosystem of the ocean.”

She had spoken to BBC News ahead of the UN environment summit in Nairobi.  Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.

Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.  She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in in an emaciated state by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.  Plastic waste was immediately suspected, because if turtles have eaten too much plastic it bloats their bellies and they can’t control their buoyancy.

The planetary crisis affects many marine creatures

Kai was given laxatives for two weeks to clear out her system, as well as anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic medicines and appetite-boosting vitamins.  After six days no plastic had been spotted in the turtle’s stools and Kai was carried back to the sea to complete her recovery.

‘Heart-breaking’ reality

“It’s a very happy moment,” she said. “But sadly we can’t be sure that Kai won’t be back again if she eats more plastic.  “It’s heart-breaking, but it’s reality. We just have to do much more to make sure the plastics don’t get into the sea in the first place.”

Caspar van de Geer runs the turtle hospital for the group Local Ocean Conservation at Watamu in eastern Kenya.  He had demonstrated earlier how uncannily a plastic film pulsating in the water column mimics the actions of the jellyfish some turtles love to eat.

“Turtles aren’t stupid,” he said. “It’s really difficult to tell the difference between plastics and jellyfish, and it may be impossible for a turtle to learn.”

On a pin board he’s compiled a grid of sealed clear plastic bags like the ones used at airports for cosmetics.  Here they contain the plastic fragments removed from the stomachs of sick turtles. Half of the turtles brought here after eating plastics have died.  A huge table at the hospital is laden with an array of plastic waste collected off local beaches – from fishing nets and nylon ropes to unidentifiable fragments of plastic film.

Each bag contains plastic fragments removed from the stomach of a turtle

Certainly, there has been a flurry of resistance from plastics firms to the bans occurring across Africa.

One UN delegate, who did not want to be named, told the BBC that journalists in some countries were being paid by the plastics industry to write stories about job losses following the plastic bag ban.  In Kenya, a long newspaper report counted job losses from the sudden closure of a plastics plant. But it did not mention the jobs being created in alternatives, such as labour-intensive basketwork, which provides work for the rural poor.

But some governments are standing firm, and the meeting has witnessed individual nations declaring tougher action against single-use plastic bags on their own territory.  South Africa and Cameroon are the latest to declare a tax on the thin bags which strew Africa’s fields and cities.

Nations with a near total ban include Mauretania, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mauritius, Zanzibar and Uganda.

Bangladesh imposed a ban in 2002 after plastic bags blocked drains and contributed to major floods.  Sri Lanka and others adopted a ban for similar reasons, although in Mauretania a ban came because cattle were getting sick from eating plastic.

Whatever the motivation for restrictions, sea creatures will eventually benefit from a slackening in the tide of waste.  The UN’s spokesman Sam Barratt told BBC News: “Of course we would have liked to have gone further, but this meeting has made real progress. There’s now a sense of urgency and energy behind the issue that we haven’t quite seen before.  What is obvious, though, is that the UN can’t solve this problem on its own. We need to do it in partnership with governments, businesses and even individuals.”

Whilst the UN grinds slowly forward, one delegate said that the meeting had been really useful for ministers to share their experiences on action they had taken in their own countries. Laggards were learning from progressives, he said.  He highlighted collaborative action from states along Africa’s Atlantic coast to clamp down on the waste that infests their seas. The UK may be brought into that partnership thanks to its British Overseas Territory of St Helena.

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From Cars to Crocodiles

Driving along the A59 through Ormskirk, near Liverpool, UK the last thing you would expect to see a life size giraffe or elephant looking at you.  You would not believe that a few short weeks before these magnificent sculptures were just pieces of scrap metal discarded mainly from the car industry?

elephant

Pangea Sculptures was set up in 2014 after Ian Unsworth saw the sculptures being sold by the side of the road while he was on a trip to Africa. He became fascinated with the designs and met with the artist, Moses, in his community in Nairobi. Ian bought a couple of pieces for himself and made arrangements to ship a container of these beautiful animal sculptures over to the UK to see if other people had the same reaction to them as he did, and was delighted when the sculptures sold within weeks.

ian unsworth

The company name, Pangea, comes from the old name for the supercontinent that existed millions of years ago before geological changes split it in to the land masses that we are familiar today; an appropriate name for a company so closely connected with the long history of Africa and the people and animals that live there.

Since 2014 the company has gone from strength to strength, exhibiting the unique sculptures at large exhibitions and shows across the UK and trading from a purpose built showroom in Lancashire where visitors can see the sculptures in detail.  Although the life sized pieces are more suited to making in a statement in a corporate setting, Pangea Sculptures also sell their pieces in several smaller sizes right down to miniature that would not look out of place in your home. Businesses can also hire pieces on a daily basis for themed events, or even weddings!

showroom

Moses and his artistic team, The Ark Collective, create powerful and striking true-to-life metal sculptures that are cherished by art lovers all over the world.

crocodile

Moses is head artist at the Collective in Nairobi and started producing the sculptures from recycled metal with the help of just two other designers. Every animal sculpture is created by hand with incredible skill and attention to detail using reclaimed materials discarded from the car industry and other sources, which would otherwise be wasted. Materials are bought by the pallet load and then painstakingly sorted, cut, shaped and welded to a unique armature to create these stunningly realistic and often life-size works of art.

moses

Since Pangea Sculptures was set up the sculptures have come to the attention of a wider audience, creating a ripple effect of change in Moses’ community. As demand has increased, Moses has trained and guided more designers and the Collective now supports over thirty highly talented artists and craftsmen. This is now a sustainable business which Moses has been able to invest in, doubling the studio space, buying specialist equipment for his team and bringing employment opportunities and security to his community.

When Ian and Moses first met the sculptures were being produced in very basic conditions and with little safety equipment. Things have changed considerably in the last couple of years as the workforce has increased and now the designers have much better facilities, proper safety equipment to use when they are welding the sculptures and an improved range of tools to use.

workshopthe_workshop_2

There are plans to build a larger workshop near the original site so that the artists can expand the range of sculptures that they are able to safely create and house. The new workshop will be a real focus of village life, sustaining a community of over 400 people and having the potential to change the lives of many more.



Moses is committed to training his young artists and giving them a lifelong creative skill; each sculpture is worked by hand taking hundreds of hours to complete, and no two pieces will be exactly alike. The artists produce a wide collection of animals from tall and elegant giraffes and magnificent life-size elephants to gorillas, rhinos, hippos, a frog chorus and even a reindeer. The character of every animal is captured perfectly and the beautiful completed pieces are then shipped to the UK where they are hand finished and lacquered.

What a great example of one man’s vision bringing about a change in so many people’s lives whilst at the same time making scrap materials into something beautiful and unusual.  Another example of Making Waste Worthwhile!!

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Making Waste Worthwhile