From plastic bag to fashion accessory

Cameroonian women are fighting against pollution with an innovative recycling scheme that uses the traditional craft skill to turn plastic bag into jewels.

Marie Yombi makes handbags, shoes, earrings and a wide range of decorative objects with worn plastic bags.

«The recycling allowed me to go out of the unemployment. I have a turnover of about four million FCfa (6.100 €) a year. The majority of the objects I make are exported to France, England and the United States « , explains Yombi.

The processing of the plastic bags begins with their collection in markets, from businesses and houses. They are then disinfected, washed and dried. «I cut them in fine strips which I knit with a crochet hook « , explains Yombi.

Like this lady, many women, alone or in groups, chose to recycle plastic bags.

«There are more than a hundred groups of women involved in this activity. We do not have the exact figure because most of them do it informally and very often at home « , explains Pierre Barnabé Ayissi, a local environment ministry official.

However, he is delighted that this initiative will helps Cameroon solve its environmental pollution problem by dealing effectively with waste that is not biodegradable.

Approximately « 700 tons » of household waste of which « eight tons » consists of bags and plastic bottles are collected every day in the main cities of Cameroon « , according to Hysacam, the independent company that collects household waste.

The biodegradable waste is buried but the company does not know what to do with plastic bags which take up to 100 years to degrade. Some are incinerated and others are left in nature.

The plastic bags block gutters and cause the overflowing of streaming water. They infiltrate into the grounds, prevent the flow of waters in arable ground; making it barren. Smoke stemming from burning plastic bags is harmful for the body and can cause lung infection.

In the footsteps of Rwanda, Chad, Gabon and other African countries, Cameroon decided, on October 24th, 2012, to forbid « the manufacturing, detention, marketing or free distribution of low-density plastic bags that are not biodegradable as well as granules being used in their manufacturing « .

This law is still not enforced.

The government gave until March 2014 to allow businesses to sell all their stock.
But there is still not a substitution solution such as the manufacturing of bags from potato peel, paper or « Chinese bamboo » in others countries.

By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu


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