After spending a few hours in Mzuzu, we are exhausted by the heavy traffic and the piles of dirt around the road. So when we get back to Nkhata Bay we look at it with somehow different eyes.
In Europe (and probably in other continents too) there is a lot of talking about plastic and the possible consequences of plastic waste. Luckily where I live, I am not confronted so often with the sight of piles of abandoned plastic. However, this time, we seriously have to think about the environmental effects of plastic.
A potentially pristine landscape.
Take Nkhata Bay for example. This little fishermen village in the warm heart of Africa (as Malawians call it), would be a breath-taking tropical place. It has nothing to envy to other famous tropical locations around the world. Nature is flourishing, there are flowers and fruit trees everywhere. The water of the lake is crystalline and plenty of colourful fishes live in it. Here and there you can spot colourful lizards and baboons jumping from a tree to the other. If you stay locked in your hostel it feels like you are in paradise.
The devastating effects of plastic.
However, if you venture outside the hostel, reality hits you and it is definitely very different from paradise. Apart from the extreme poor conditions in which these people are living, you can’t help notice piles of plastic everywhere. In most cases, plastic has completely substituted more traditional alternatives. Jumbo (the local name of plastic bags) are everywhere. They are sold everywhere in any shape and price. You have small ones which will hold just 4 tomatoes or a handful of coal and big ones to carry more grocery or other items. The small ones are one time use only, since they will break in no time, but after all they cost peanuts. So once you used one and once it broke down, you just throw it on the side of the street. The destiny of the bigger ones is not too different. Same goes for water plastic bottles (other drinks are only in glass bottles around here). And this all adds up to more organic left overs, from fruits, vegetables etc.
What to do?
Lack of education? Ignorance of the most basic civic rules? Maybe….
But if you had to struggle for your daily food and you had to choose between spending very little for a plastic bag and much more for a more sustainable item, what would you do? I would definitely go for the cheapest option…
Ok, so now you might be thinking: fair enough, but then dispose it properly. I could not agree with you more, but I could not find even a single bin in the centre of town, let alone in the villages around it. So you end up walking 2 hours with a banana peel in your hands, then you give up and you do like all the rest. You throw it at the side of the road…
Question is: who is really to blame here?