Behavior change and public participation is key to a functional waste management.
Waste is growing
Humanity have created 8.3 billion tons of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment. Globally, some 3.5 billion people lack access to formal waste management services and population from remote areas in Afghanistan is no exception.
Global plastic pollution numbers give headaches: 500 billion plastic bags are used each year, one million plastic bottles bought every minute; most plastics do not biodegrade, so the plastic waste humans have generated could remain for a hundred or several hundreds of years. More and more plastic waste is found in the Afghan landscape, even in such places that should deserve or have already the status of a national park. It is said that a dip in the lakes of Band-e-Amir, the first Afghan national park, will cure you from diseases, however the rubbish and waste that seems to end up in the lakes would suggest otherwise.
Community based initiative in Sokhtagi
Shocked by the amount of garbage littering the lakes, pounds and rivers of the region of Sokhtagi, Nai Qala’s president shared her sad feelings with the local community during her stay in the area, in March 2018. Her words positively resonated with the population who decided to take action. End of June 2018, the school council of Sokhtagi organized a general waste collection day where more than 350 people participated. Parents, school teachers and students gathered several dozens of kilos of plastic, glass, metal and fabric from the pound of Sokhtagi and its shores.
Such a motivation among the community of Sokhtagi, in an historically isolated region, is remarkable. Among many other benefits, the building of a school make villagers mindful of their environment. “We have one of the most beautiful lakes right in front of our door, we must take care of it and, who knows, one day our village will become an area to attract many outsiders to visit”said a gentleman who was among the cleaning volunteers.
Becoming aware of the environment and the generated waste
Nai Qala promotes sustainability values and engages the community to be mindful of their environment and take care of the nature. Nai Qala encourages the community of all villages where it builds schools and health center, and ensures environment is discussed with the beneficiaries of its programs.
At a moment when the World Bank estimates that global solid waste generation is on pace to increase by 70 percent by 2025, with developing countries facing the greatest challenges, such community based initiatives give a strong signal of hope. Not only waste collections day but also a critical thinking about the material populations use as well as good waste management practices will help keep those remote regions of central Afghanistan clean. Let’s hope waste reduction and waste collection, being thoughtful about what one’s buy and choosing a sustainable option whenever possible will become part of the local culture.
Roland Geyer et al. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, July 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782