Saturday, June 21, 2014

Zero-Waste - It's time Tanzania, it's time.

EDIT: A quick search online found me this blog post about a company called, TENA, that is now collecting plastic bottles from people in Arusha. So I have emailed them to inquire further. I think for now they are just collecting, not recycling but hey, that's a great start. I think for now I will keep the bottles so that we can fill them with other plastics and make bricks and build a bench, but it's great to know about this so I can share this information to those who are wanting to do something about their bottle situation. 

It's been a while! I've been posting to my Africa blog mostly, so check it out if you're curious, though it's less about waste specifically and more about my own thoughts and other such things...check it out here! but I think it's due time for a post on this one!

So, I just got back to Sinoni (Near Arusha, Tz)  from Kinesi (a small village near Musoma on Lake Victoria - beautiful, peaceful place, though very hot and I'd argue it's due to lack of trees - many have been cut down for cooking, and not done so in a sustainable way, though things are starting to change)...and I seem to feel very inspired to rock some zero waste action at home here. 

I’m not even sure why or what happened...I think just because so much got thrown out while I was away and I happened to be near the garbage and caught first a glimpse of a bunch of paper in there…. And then as I dug further, I found some jars, three to be exact, one glass one even! And then I found some compost, a sack for sunglasses, a paper clip (okay that’s minor but still, why put it in the garbage it’s very useful and I don’t have many in the office!! And to toss something that’s perfectly usable, just seems like the garbage was closer than the office… why not put it in your pocket for when you're in the office or somewhere where it's usable! #mindshifting), I digress, I also found an essential oil burner…not sure at all why that got put in the garbage…and so it was settled…I’d start organizing this waste…

The paper went into the compost toilette – which is a great carbon addition! The box that was holding the paper went back in the office, with a sign on it now informing people that it isn’t for the garbage, it’s a place to put paper to recycle! (as shown in the below photo)

The jars were cleaned and now they will be put in the cupboard to hold dried goods – way better than bags of stuff – so the rats can’t eat into them!! 

The essential oil burner will stay in the kitchen or it may make its way to my room wherein I have some lavender essential oil that would go great with such a thing, to allow for some peaceful moments. 

The glasses case will be used to protect sun glasses, the paperclip will be used in the office, and the plastics that I can’t recycle here (yet!)….will make (slash, have already made) their way into the below bottle brick…brick #1 of je ne sais quoi, such that we can build an earth bench or some other earthen shape and incorporate the bottles into it so that they stay in situ and do not pollute our one and only, beautiful home.

Search "Earth Bench with Bottle Bricks" and such epic inspirational photos show up!Photo Cred: © Brennan Bird,

Here is some of what I pulled out of the garbage bin, minus the square plastic container, which had compost to bring to the compost pile, which is I suppose what started my garbage journey as it is what led me to peak into the garbage....

Worm compost, with newly added cardboard as mulch/carbon filter
I even found some coriander and fennel on top of the worm bin, on some previously laid cardboard that was clearly untouched and had just been put there...confirmation from our Farm Manager, that it was put there under the assumption no-one would eat it! I've now let him know that for sure I will always take these items if there's extra!

While I was away in Kinesi, there were two pits, one was for compost, though that didn’t seem to actually compost as it mostly got burned despite previous attempts to stop burning things, and the other one was for plastics, that got burned… that really freaks me out, burning plastics is possibly the WORST thing one can do, I think it’s worse than just leaving the plastic as is…. But maybe I’m wrong. I have vivid memories as a child, going for hikes in Elbow Falls, and then having fire-cooked meal in the forest before heading home, I remember us always being very careful not to put plastic in the fire...I remember always being the one patrolling the fire to ensure no plastic got in. Now that I think of it, there was even a plastic-in-the-fire-pit debacle during my first summer at MPAcc, in Saskatoon.... someone keps trying to toss a bottle in after I kept pulling it out of the fire, just to spite me (hmm, yes a bit ridiculous, I know!).... I eventually got it out.  A quick search found me this.  Either way it stinks and is a sketchy toxin, so perhaps seeing the ashes of previous plastics, and new plastics piled on top to be burned in due time propelled me to act after arriving back home to Arusha…either way, I can’t believe I went so long without starting a recycling program.

All in all, I think what prevented me was the thoughts that – they don’t recycle here, that’s just the way it is, there is no-where to take anything even if I start to separate it…. 

What silly things to think! But we're all prey to this sort of thought pattern - wherein we just "accept what is"...glad I have come out of that initial trance. 

I refuse to accept that any longer. I think some people may laugh at all of my efforts and think "that will just end the moment she leaves" or ... "it's useless because people don't recycle there"...but to me, for one, it feels right inside to do this, so I do it... but also, if anything, even if I try, and fail, it still opens a conversation,and brings about a new thought into people's consciousness..... and that is better than nothing! Raising awareness even if it ends up all going back to the garbage, to me is a step in the right direction.

Items reserved for bottle brickin'
Perfect bottle drying rack pre-plastic fill! Boom. Note I found all of thee in the my!

One brick down...many to come!

I’m pretty excited…I actually forgot how excited diverting waste from the landfill makes me feel....I think this may be my calling…. Now I can’t actually sort people’s garbage because that isn’t sustainable, (much like the teaching someone to fish versus giving them fish...) but there’s gotta be something there, because honestly it makes me come alive….I’m so incredibly stoked now that I put some plastic in a bottle and have a brick….and I can’t wait for more to fill....and then to step in some clay, sand, and straw to make some earthen structure!

My current dilemma is - do I start from now on, or attack the current garbage situation? The garbage here is full BUT it’s’s been sitting for a while so who knows what’s inside…rats? On the plus side, at least most wet material is out, as the compost is separate (besides the odd person throwing out compost not knowing we have a bin for that)…. But it also has no lid, so when it rains it goes inside so..I’m a bit apprehensive to go through the bin and put everything into bottles …. I may do a bit on the top, let it dry out from sun, then do a bit more off the top and stop when it gets too real… but can it ever get too real? We shall see....

As you can see the big blue bin is the current waste bin, filled mostly with plastics - so definitely I think about 99.99% of all its contents could be bricked. 

With metal I plan to ask someone who is near by where I always see a bunch of scrap metal…maybe they’d take 
it or maybe I could do a mid day dump and it would casually blend in with the other metals….or at least have the conversation.

The water bottles, well, they will be used for stuffing other garbage into but if we have too many I hear that there is some bottle recycling a couple places in the city..maybe…but I think by recycling the mean…they put it in a bag and save it for some other purpose yet to be known. So maybe bottle bricks are the best option.
I think that covers all the waste we have…
Some bottles set aside...for what, I'm not sure.

As you can see the bags open over time, and not sure this is a very effective method but I'd love to chat with whomever is responsible for this so I can learn more.

What looks like birds in the sky, is actually black plastic bags.... mbaya sana. 
Working to get rid of this ;) - the Landfill near-ish to wear I'm living.

I set out three bins a couple weeks ago and by day 2 they were all gone, the contents all into the garbage, and the plastic bins back by the showers…. Even though I had mentioned that this is for recycling… But now a sweet sign has been made (compliments of Lynn! Quite the artist!) so if I reinstate the buckets, perhaps that will help …but maybe we need to add the Swahili words below.

The bottle bricks make me happy too because it’s a great project for kids to work on… collect garbage, and find bottles – which are otherwise littered into ecosystems, fill them up, and bring them to one location – could even incentivise this, perhaps 50 shillings per bottle filled up…. Or something to that effect. . . and any and all earthen structures are rad, and one that directly reduces plastic pollution in our environment…bonus! J

My heart is happy.