In Senegal, a costumed activist stands up against plastic and the “immobility” of the authorities

Published on: 20/04/2022 – 17:22 Two years after the vote on the law to ban single-use or disposable plastics in Senegal on April 20, 2020, environmental activists believe that the promises interviewed n were not kept. Like a colorful activist, Modou Fall, who roams the streets of Senegalese cities as much as social networks to warn of the dangers of plastic, they denounce the “immobility” of the government. He does not go unnoticed with his imposing costume made of colored plastic bags and his sign “No to plastic bags” bearing the Senegalese flag. Modou Fall claims to have been campaigning for the preservation of the Senegalese environment for 16 years. This former soldier became aware of the “dangerousness” of plastic, in his words, when he started cleaning the streets of Dakar, noting that the vast majority of waste was plastic bags. “It’s poison for the planet and especially for the health of human beings” he says according to the media interventions he has been making for years, but also from his publications on social networks where he counts a little more than 1,500 followers on Twitter and TikTok. “A lot of people thought I was crazy with this costume!” I’m a former soldier and I had the idea to create as a sniper outfit during a clearing action. I said to myself that plastic bags, we saw them every day, far too many, and that they had to be shown to attract attention immediately, and to make people understand the heap of plastic. I created this costume in 2011… but it’s more relevant than ever, eleven years later! A lot of people thought I was crazy to begin with! It’s true that from a distance, this costume is a bit scary… But I have multiplied my actions over the years, especially in religious or sporting events, to attract attention on a completely voluntary basis. People got to know me… Today, many want to have their picture with me, and it’s easy to start a conversation with them to raise their awareness. I carry out various actions: for example, going to the fields to collect discarded and used tires in order to transform them into furniture and then offer them to schools. I also give free training to organizations so that they can organize cleaning operations: I explain to them from A to Z how they can organize themselves to be efficient and even recycle what they collect themselves. “Passing a law is good, but there are no incentives”Two years after the entry into force of the law banning single-use or disposable plastic products, on April 20, 2020, activists judge incentives too weak to bring about real change. They are campaigning for decrees to be issued in order to define the terms of application of the law in several areas. These decrees could in particular define sanctions, particularly for manufacturers or small businesses that do not comply with the law. “In the law, there is a ‘floor price’ for plastic waste, that is to say that we cannot sell this waste below this price for recycling… but this decree does not exist! ” explains Sokhna Dié Ka, community rights affirmation program manager at Natural Justice. “You always see the water sachets, even in the streets of Dakar, it’s part of the decor!” explains Momar Baby, activist for Zéro déchet Dakar, who criticizes the government for not having built the law with the defenders of the environment. Zéro déchet Dakar is part of a group of NGOs which has notably published thirteen recommendations for the Senegalese authorities. Modou Fall continues: Passing a law is good, but there are no incentives. Last year, with several NGOs, we tried to show alternative solutions: favor reusable bags made of fabric or paper, or even promote channels to recycle plastic by transforming it into mats, or even bricks, because it exists! We also plead for the systematic deposit of bottles in supermarkets… But unfortunately, there is too little political will. So the industrialists do not play the game and the citizens do not follow the movement. “Senegal doesn’t deserve this!” Modou Fall knows the government authorities well: he worked for two years under contract with the Ministry of the Environment to raise awareness among the Senegalese population about the right things to do with plastic. Today in conflict with the authorities for unpaid salary arrears according to him, he explains that his personal case is not important. I do not believe that Senegal is ready to adopt this decree: I have not seen any concrete reaction from the Ministry of the Environment showing that a solution is being prepared. In some regions, for example, where there is little drinking water, the government still tolerates the use of plastic water bags. [des allègements à la loi plastique ont effectivement été mis en place par le gouvernement sénégalais dans le cadre de la pandémie de Covid-19, NDLR]. We cannot respond to infrastructure problems with more plastic! We need a cleaner Senegal! Senegal does not deserve this! Last March, the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Abdou Karim Sall, explained that he had received from the President of the Republic, Macky Sall, the instruction to fight against plastic with greater firmness and to make more “constraining ‘” the penalties provided for against its use. “Today we are making progress, but there are still things to do,” he acknowledged. He adds: “The health of the seas is intimately linked to that of the population, to the very life of the populations” referring to the many plastic bags thrown into the sea, but without giving more details on the implementation decrees in particular. According to Africa Check, a verification media based in Senegal, which was able to consult the latest reports from the Solid Waste Management Coordination Unit concerning the production of waste in Senegal dating from November 2016, the country would produce in average 536.56 tonnes of plastic waste per day. Activists claim for their part that in total, plastic waste would represent between 200,000 and 440,000 tonnes per year, of which only 5% would actually be recycled. Unverifiable figures, in the absence of recent data. Modou Fall concludes: We are waiting for a sign from the authorities for April 20, for the two years of the vote on this law. But if this is not the case, I am ready, with several NGOs, to undertake a march through Senegal to denounce the inaction of the authorities.