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Reform Magazine | December 4, 2021

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Where all that plastic goes

Where all that plastic goes

While westerners try to cut down on their plastic habit,
we hear from three Tanzanians who live with its impact

Johnson Pita, plastic collector

I live in Kigogo, near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and I work collecting bottles. I wake up in the morning and take a basket, like a sack, and I walk around all the places to collect bottles. When the bottle bags are full, I take them to a place where I weigh the bottles. I collect 700 to 1,000 bottles a day.

The trend has increased. Many other people have joined that work of collecting, so, sometimes, it seems like plastic bottle waste is dropping – not because the waste is reduced, but because the number of people who collect has increased.

The places I go to collect are sometimes dirty. I feel a lot of stomach pains and things like that, because of the environment.

We sell the bottles by the kilogram. One kilogram, 30 bottles, we sell for 250 Tanzanian shillings. I used to get 400. It’s because collectors are many, so it is easy for buyers to drop the price. We depend on companies producing plastic bottles; it is employment for us. So we need them to use plastic. If they were to stop, it would be very important for those companies to provide alternative employment.

People can wait for very long times without waste being collected, so sometimes they come to throw their waste in the river. Some can’t pay for rubbish collection. Sometimes the car that comes to collect waste doesn’t come on time, so people throw it around here.

Once our river water was very clean. It used to have a lot of fish Now it has all this waste, and the waste is increasing very seriously. Every day, the increase of the waste is huge…

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This is an extract from an article published in the March 2021 edition of Reform

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