IGP Stories

Plastics and cities: A story of love and hate

Climate Emergency Africa

Professor Jacqueline McGlade

Every piece of plastic discarded, whether it is a food packaging, cigarette end, milk carton, synthetic fabric, baby wipes and diapers, or personal care products, will eventually end up clogging our waterways and breaking up into microplastics, harming our health and wellbeing. A zero-plastic waste future is one that will turn our cities into liveable spaces for everyone.

Plastics are big businesses worldwide. By 2022, the market for manufactured plastic products is projected to exceed Sh212 trillion ($2 trillion), mainly due to the high demand for textiles. Cities, such as Nairobi, will increasingly rely on excellent waste management operations, designed around people’s needs and the delivery of a safe and healthy environment. Good waste management is part of making these cities more attractive for inward investment and attracting people to relocate.

Thinking ahead to a post-Covid time, Nairobi could potentially focus on becoming a capital city with zero-plastic waste. Not only would urban life be enriched by a cleaner environment, but the use of biobased plastic materials produced locally would open up opportunities across the Kenyan economy. To achieve such an outcome would require several steps to be taken. For example, building awareness about the benefits of a city with zero-plastic waste, and how to achieve it using realistic, alternative sources of materials.

The full article ‘Plastics and cities: A story of love and hate’ was published in The Edge, Re-Imagining Sustainability. To read the article please click below.

Professor Jacqueline McGlade is Professor of Environment and Sustainable Development at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) and lead scientist for PROCOL Kenya. She tweets @jacquiemcglade

Image credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

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