Turning waste into sustainability - the latest project from Sustainable East Africa

While in Zanzibar, two of the Ecological Economics students spent some time becoming more familiar with the work of Steve Read and the Sustainable East Africa charity. This charity aims to share sustainability solutions with local NGOs, schools and commun

The issue of water scarcity is an important one in Zanzibar. The geography of Zanzibar is carbonate base, with the foundations of the island is coral. All aquifers are rainwater fed, and the freshwater-table is not much higher than sea-level. This means that water is fairly scarce. Tourism appears to exacerbate water scarcity issues both because peak tourism coincides with lowest rainfall, and because tourists use something in the region of three times the volume of water used by locals.

In addition to water quantity problems, Zanzibar is also faced with significant water quality problems. The pollution of water resources from waste is a significant problem throughout Tanzania, as there is no public funding for waste collection. Plastics are particularly bad source of water pollution due to the reliance of the country (and the reliance of tourists) on bottled water, and plastic water bottles make up a large proportion of the visible waste, especially on the beaches.

Sustainable East Africa’s latest project is one of sustainable housing and is designed to tackle both the plastic bottle disposal issue and the poor quality of masonry, by building houses out of sand-filled plastic bottles. This comes after the success of a number of water containers built out of the same materials. The charity aims to build a demonstration house, that Steve Read hopes will encourage others to adopt the materials and even start a small industry including waste bottle collection, bottle filling and brick building (a brick is comprised of six bottles cemented together).

If the project is successful it could have far reaching consequences for Zanzibar, creating an economic incentive for the collection and recycling of at least one waste stream and ultimately clean-up the beaches.

Pictures of plastic bottles used in this fashion are available from the Sustainable East Africa facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SustainableEastAfrica/photos_stream?fref=photo

Sarah Young


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