Madiba & Nature is turning plastic bottles into fishing boats in Cameroon

It is no news that humanity has a dangerous affair with plastic bottles. The world purchases these ecological hazards one million times a minute adding up to nearly 500 billion bottles a year. Many bottles wind up in the ocean instead of recycling bins, and even the sheer volume of trash that needs recycling has become increasingly difficult to keep up with.

While countries like Ghana and Algeria are contributing to ecological efforts to reduce the plastic menace by building roads and houses for refugees using plastic bottles respectively, Cameroonian non-profit Madiba & Nature is turning plastic bottles into canoes.

A different type of plastic at sea. Credit: Madiba & Nature, Inhabitat

Madiba & Nature is pioneering a creative use for bottles, which contribute heavily to pollution and environmental degradation. Started by Essome Ismael, the company fabricates floating canoe-shaped crafts out of collected and cleaned plastic trash in an effort to prompt people to think differently about how they consume and dispose of plastic bottles. According to their website: “…we want to help change people’s attitudes and bad habits on the management of plastic waste that degrades sensitive ecosystems.” 

Essome says his vision is to reduce plastic waste in aquatic, marine and urban environments in Cameroon to allow for better adaptation to climate change on the continent.

In 2014, Cameroon banned disposable plastic bags. But the law is rarely enforced in rural areas, where merchants believe the alternatives are more expensive.

“We are fighting,” Essome told Vocativ. “We are trying to find innovative solutions that are new and can be useful in order to add value to these bottles.”

The plastic bottles become fishing boats for the community and the initiative not only preserves the environment but also helps fishermen in his community with a cheaper way of earning a living.

Plastic bottles in the process of becoming fishing boats. Credit: Madiba & Nature, Inhabitat

The non-profit organization got started by a group of students in 2015 to promote the circular economy in order to ensure the conservation and enhancement of nature. With almost a year of activity, Madiba & Nature boasts of having already developed an effective ecological model of recycling plastic bottles by building infrastructures such as pirogues, boucaro, chandeliers, bins and garbage cans. They also developed a waste management system based on local populations in Yabassi from sorting and pre-gathering through storage up to recovery.

Madiba & Nature continues to offer technical assistance and develop an awareness and environmental education program both in the commuinity and through their Facebook page  in a bid to fight against the pollution of plastic waste in aquatic, marine and urban environment in Cameroon.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastic waste in oceans around the world. According to recent studies, plastic is already showing up in our food, and last month scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts, jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments even as plastic takes hundreds of years at best to break down.

The vision of the Madiba & Nature is to reach an Africa where “the circular economy contributes to the creation of jobs, protection of nature through recycling and recovery of plastic waste, development of renewable energy, management of aquatic landscapes, urban areas and protected areas.”