Wasted Medical Supplies
The United States generates over two million tons of wasted medical supplies each year. Facilities do not use many of these supplies such as unexpired medical supplies and equipment. People even throw away completely usable, albeit expired medical supplies. This surplus exists because of hospital cleaning policies, infection prevention guidelines and changes in vendors. Additionally, because equipment must always be ready, replacements are always in order. As such, in the U.K., medical facilities replace equipment before the old versions are out of commission. Waste ranges from medicine to operating gowns, all the way to hospital beds and wheelchairs. Beyond consumables like medicine and one-time supplies like syringes, the need to replace before equipment is sub-optimal leaves a margin for waste on big-ticket items like MRIs.

Many hospitals have dumped their garbage from the reception and operating rooms along with usable medical surplus into incinerators. Although this burning is a source of many pollutants, it is still common practice in many developing countries.

This issue of medical supply waste intertwines deeply with a lack of access to medical equipment in the developing world. While developed countries live in a world of sterile excess, developing countries and remote villages with little access to suitable equipment to meet their needs suffer.

How Does this Waste Relate to Poverty?

People view access to the level of health care service in the developed world as the standard rather than a privilege. In places of poverty like Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, facilities are in desperate need of supplies and equipment to treat patients in their region.

Inadequate provisions leave patients on the floor or in out-of-date hospital beds paired with another patient. In the DRC, rape is a common weapon of war. The U.N. Human Rights Security Council passed a resolution that described the problem as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group.” Many of the patients at the doorstep of Burhinyi Central Hospital are suffering from rape-related ailments. Some examples are HIV/AIDS, fistulas, bladder and intestinal damage and infections. Without the necessary equipment to handle such cases, impoverished areas, which are already more prone to injury and disease, deteriorate.

How Can it be Fixed?

Again, the issue of wasted medical supplies id deeply connected to poverty. In fact, they are complementary. The solution lies in moving the surplus from areas of excess to people in need. This reduces the waste in developed countries by giving supplies to hospitals that need them. Therefore, one can convert wasted medical supplies to usable surplus.

There are many NGOs like Medshare and Supplies Over Seas (SOS) that follow this process. These nonprofits operate based on collecting, sorting and sending the usable medical surplus to hospitals in need.

SOS has a container shipment program that sends cargo containers filled with medical supplies. These containers would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. A typical container contains six to eight tons. Its medical contents value conservatively at $150,000-$350,000. Since 2014, SOS has shipped containers to 20 countries in need.

A volunteer at Medshare outlined her experience working with surplus medical supplies, saying that, “It was shocking how much waste there actually was. Warehouses full of totally usable stuff all ready to be thrown away.” She added, “[she] sorted through things like syringes and gauze packets which were all put into huge containers for hospitals that need it. It feels like a difference is being made.”

Stop Wasting and Start Donating

Wasted medical supplies and impoverished areas without access to proper medical equipment are issues that people can resolve simultaneously by salvaging usable supplies and equipment that were ready to go to landfill and sending them to communities in need. Regarding medical waste and poverty, the best solutions occur when those who have more give to those who have less.

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

food waste and global hungerAccording to World Food Program (WFP) USA, food waste and global hunger are directly correlated. Food waste, alongside conflict, lack of resources and chronic poverty, is a key cause of hunger in the world today. Annually, as much as one-quarter to one-third–approximately 1.3 billion tons–of all food is wasted or lost globally. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, $4 billion in food was lost in 2011, significantly exceeding the amount of foreign assistance the region received that year.

Lack of Access

The issue of global hunger is generally a lack of access to food, rather than lack of food supply. Considering that $1 trillion in edible food, enough to feed roughly 2 billion people, is discarded around the globe each year, it would seem that examining and addressing food waste could be a significant step in alleviating global hunger.

Projections indicate that a 25 percent decrease in global food waste could provide enough food to feed all who are malnourished in the world today. Food waste has multiple root causes, depending on the region and level of development where it occurs. In developing countries, food loss and waste is usually the fault of lack of technology and infrastructure in the agricultural and transportation sectors. Conversely, developed countries tend to create food waste because of overproduction or consumers purchasing more food than needed.

Combating Hunger

To combat food waste and global hunger, the United Nations (UN) and other organizations have created initiatives to increase efficiency in food production and minimize waste. One such initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), to which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with nine countries, pledged about $1.4 billion over the course of three years.

Since its creation in 2009, GAFSP has been able to target 2.5 million farmers, deploy approximately $332 million, approve 61 investments spanning 27 countries and approve 67 advisory projects across 30 countries in the developing world. Today, GAFSP is working on projects ranging from modernizing the dairy industry in Mauritania to promoting the growth of sustainable development in the palm oil sectors of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

These contributions, in addition to the $4.4 billion invested in the private sector by the International Finance Corporation in 2013, jumpstarted projects to provide access to seeds, equipment, information, markets and finances for producers and farmers in developing countries. The Global Irrigation Program (GIP), created by the IFC, continues to support irrigation suppliers and farmers by creating access to and availability of effective irrigation equipment, thus helping to manage water use in farming communities.

The Impact of Aid

The World Bank notes that initiatives such as these have led to significant improvements relating to food waste and global hunger in recent years. As a direct result of the International Development Association’s efforts, over 210 million pregnant and/or lactating women, children under the age of five, and adolescent girls in developing regions gained access to basic nutrition services from 2003 to 2013.

Food waste, along with other factors such as poverty and conflict, is a root cause of global hunger. Initiatives to address hunger and malnourishment worldwide have sought to improve the efficiency of food production and minimize sources of food waste; these initiatives are making significant progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating hunger by 2030.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Pixabay

Alleviating Poverty and Waste in AfricaWith trillions of pounds of trash produced worldwide per year, it is safe to say that trash is a growing problem. While the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day, many do not realize the immensity of trash built up in communities as it almost mythically disappears from curbs weekly. Comparatively, Africans produce considerably much less waste with only 5 percent of the trash worldwide coming from the entire continent. However, in less developed parts of the world like Africa, only 10 percent of trash is regularly collected. This build-up of trash becomes problematic as it pollutes the land and water, causing disease and environmental degradation. There are many creative entrepreneurs in Africa now exploring new ways to tackle both poverty and the growing waste problem. These entrepreneurs are using creative ways to reuse the waste in their communities to create quality products to sell. From bags to shoes to fence posts, here are three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa.

Rethaka Repurposes Schoolbags

Two young South African women entrepreneurs, Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane, designed a school bag that offers a creative solution to numerous problems. Their school bags are each made out of 20 recycled plastic bags. Their idea removes plastic waste from their communities while offering a sustainable, waterproof school bag. Additionally, the bags are reflective, ensuring that kids are visible during their walks to and from school. The cherry on top of this sustainable solution is the solar charged light attached to each bag. This light charges while a child walks outside to school, providing them light to study by at home after dark. With over 10,000 bags sold already, Rethaka created local job opportunities paying fair wages, ultimately helping lift employees out of poverty.

SoleRebels

SoleRebels of Ethiopia boasts that it was the first ever fair trade certified footwear company back in 2005. Creating jobs for over 600 locals paid on average 233 percent more than industry averages, soleRebels truly prioritized creating an ethical job market in Ethiopia since its creation. Recognizing sustainability as a deeply ingrained cultural tradition rather than a contemporary trend, soleRebels made creating footwear with a low environmental impact a priority. The soles of the shoes are made out of recycled car tires. The company uses a variety of other reused and recycled materials like cotton for the rest of the shoe. This locally owned business promotes the importance of local ownership over charity. As wealth gets more evenly distributed, more people can escape poverty through job creation and ethical wages.

EcoPost

All while creating thousands of jobs for locals, EcoPost eliminated over 6 million pounds of plastic to create fence posts. Its fence post design mirrors the look of traditional wood fencing but is much more durable as it is not vulnerable to termites, mold or theft for firewood (a growing problem in Kenya).  EcoPost proved to be safer for local communities as it does not leach harsh chemicals into the water supply as treated timber does. This sustainable fencing option also reduces the number of forests cut down to create fencing from virgin wood resources. By recycling and reusing thousands of plastic bags, EcoPost helped reduce the amount of flooding in local communities caused by plastic bags clogging sewer systems. EcoPost is helping to build up communities from the inside out through the intersection of job creation and waste reduction.

As Africa continues to urbanize, the amount of municipal waste is expected to double by 2025. As growing waste negatively impacts those in poverty, it is crucial for new local businesses to take on this low impact business model. By removing waste from the waste stream and creating new jobs, sustainable businesses like the ones discussed here are effective options. With more businesses like these three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa around, the path to escape from poverty becomes more accessible.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Indigo dye in indiaIn 2017, the people in Mumbai, India saw something strange happening with the stray dogs of the city. The dogs all seemed to be turning a light blue color. People reported to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board that a company in the Taloja Industry area was dumping indigo dye, which was primarily used by that company, in the local Kasadi river. The dogs were hunting for food in the area and, consequently, their fur was turned blue. Authorities quickly shut down the factory to prevent more dye from entering the river, but the question remained about how toxic this dye is not only to the animals but the locals as well? With the long history of indigo dye and India, why has this only recently become a problem?

Indigo Dye in India

Indigo is a natural dye, but unlike most natural dyes, indigo dye penetrates clothes directly when heated. Indigo dye and India are correlated because the country had been using it naturally for centuries. Now, however, most factories use a chemical agent called mordant to increase the number of clothes produced in less time. Mordants can be just acidic, not necessarily toxic, but most companies choose to use mordant with aluminum and chromium. Both of these can cause great damage to the ecosystem. Factory wastewater can poison rivers, killing plants, animals and poisoning drinking water for the people of India.

Even without mordants, natural indigo dye is not great for the environment either. It is slow to decompose and darkens river water, so flora and fauna starve from lack of sunlight. That is why the dogs of Mumbai turned blue upon entering the river. The best approach to preventing toxic dyes from entering and poisoning the rivers is prevention and filtration. If factories used local plants for dyes, that would help filtration. Prevention is tricky. Scientist Juan Hinestroza is working on using nanotechnology to apply dye directly to cloth fibers. If this is successful, it would make toxic dyes and mordants obsolete.

Water Pollution

Groundwater, rivers and streams are being severely affected by this fashionable color. With such a high demand for cheap clothes in indigo, like denim jeans, factories and workshops find cheap, quick ways to produce products at high volumes. Tirupur, India is home to many factories specifically used for making and dyeing clothes. These factories have been dumping the wastewater from production into rivers in the area. Despite tougher regulations, they continue the process, rendering local and groundwater undrinkable.

With dying waters and a rising population, India is struggling to clean up its rivers. The fight is far from over, and people have turned to the government for an answer. Activists are heading to court to get municipalities and states to rise and take action. They started with one demand for the restoration for the Mithi river, a river polluted with dye, paint and engine oil. Citizens started legal petitions then gathered volunteers to get other rivers in the area cleaned up. After a terrible flood in 2005, dams were built to reduce overflow, which was helpful because the rivers are now split it in two.

Back To Nature

India is one of the few countries that produce indigo and denim clothes at high volumes, so the ways of naturally applying indigo to clothing is a long lost art. However, one designer is working to change that. Payal Jain, a fashion designer in India, is bringing back the natural ways of getting indigo straight from the plant and onto the clothes. Using mud and intricate wood carvings, artisans use this method to print the color directly to the fabric. Bringing back traditional ways of dying could relieve the environment from toxic, synthetic dyes.

Blue dogs appearing in the streets, poisoned rivers and groundwater, crops dying and limited access to clean drinking water are all direct results of indigo dye waste being dumped into the rivers. As long as factories continue to dump dye waste into rivers, this problem will persist. The citizens of India are coming together to clear the neglected rivers and push for tougher regulations on clothing factories. With the government’s support and the use of new scientific methods to dye clothing, Indigo dye in India could remain popular without being dangerous.

Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Plastic waste in IndiaPlastic waste in India has collectively reached 8.3 billion tons throughout the past 70 years. This is inclusive of plastic bags, plastic bottles, packaging, straws, spoons and forks and much more. To picture how much 8.3 billion tons would look like, compare it to 1 billion elephants or 822,000 Eiffel Towers.

Plastic Poses a Threat to the Sea Life

This immense amount of plastic waste in India often ends up polluting the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It acts as entrapments to the natural habitats. When ingested by fishes, the chemicals that compose the plastic poisons them and make them inedible for consumption. In other cases, plastic packaging such as the rings for canned sodas pose as a threat to wildlife like Turtles as it can strangle them. Additionally, the sea creatures view plastic waste as predators that interfere with their natural food consumption. This makes these animals starve as they find it difficult to approach their natural food source.

Plastic Waste in India Affects the Livelihood of Fishermen

Fishing is one of the primary occupations for people living on the coasts of India. For many, that is the only source of income. The problem of plastic waste in the sea is affecting the livelihood of fishermen to a great extent.

Recently, fishermen and women in India have begun to filter through, wash and sort the plastic collected from the sea. Those that are too damaged or far too recycled, are further recycled. While the plastic that is in near-perfect form is shredded and sold to construction companies. It is shredded into a consistency finer than confetti and used to build up the asphalt used to pave roads.

Using Plastic to Construct Roads

There are various benefits to using recycled plastics over regular plastics, especially in terms of constructing roads. By using recycled plastic, one can save approximately 1 ton of asphalt. In addition, cost wise, it provides approximately 8 percent profit. Furthermore, addressing the influx of plastic waste in India paves way for new jobs for many unemployed citizens.

In terms of quality, roads constructed with the help of recycled plastic tends to be more durable against weather conditions such as floods and high temperatures. A variety of smaller plastic shredding businesses have risen in order to support this new form of construction.

The Process of Utilizing Plastic Waste

The process involved in constructing roads from recycled plastic is relatively simple. First, the different kinds of plastic wastes are sorted, cleaned and dried. Then, it is shredded into a fine confetti texture. After that, it is melted at 170 degrees Celcius. To this, hot bitumen, a mixture used to build roads, is added. Once this mixture is complete, it is further mixed with asphalt concrete and laid out into foundations.

This technique of utilizing plastic waste to build roads has been already put to practice in 11 states throughout India. Some of these places include Halls Road, Ethiraj Silai Street and Sardar Patel Street. Currently, 100,000 kilometers of roads have been built.

One of the leading cities to implement this technique is Chennai. So far, 160,000 kilograms of plastic have been reused. In turn, 1.035 kilometers of road has been built. By following the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle, plastic waste in India is being redirected to better the country.

Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty
There are an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in the oceans and about 80 percent of that plastic comes from countries that can be considered as countries with extreme poverty. Individuals struggling to feed their families and send their children to school do not have time to worry about recycling and are often unaware of the effects of pollution on their surrounding environment. To address this issue, David Katz founded the Plastic Bank, a company that is using ocean plastic to end poverty.

The Plastic Bank- Using Ocean Plastic to End Poverty

The Plastic Bank aims to combine social and environmental impact by creating value out of plastic waste. Communities suffering from poverty usually do not have effective waste management programs and therefore any plastic products used by local families end up polluting the surrounding environment. By working with impoverished communities, the Plastic Bank helps set up stores in which the accepted currency is post-consumer plastics. This enables individuals to collect plastics and exchange them for money, goods and services.

This program has proven to be very successful in Haiti. A number of stores have been founded in which locals can bring used plastics to be weighed and checked for quality and then traded in for credit. The stores that are created and operated by locals offer various products and services, from food and water to school tuition and medical insurance to cell phone minutes and high-efficiency stoves.

Cooperation with Other Companies

In addition to offering a means of steady income, this credit system allows individuals to set up a savings account. Impoverished communities often rely on cash transactions and are therefore at a greater risk of corruption and theft. To solve this, the Plastic Bank teamed up with IBM to employ blockchain technology, removing money from the equation completely.

The Plastic Bank then sells the plastics collected to socially and environmentally conscious companies around the world. Brands like Marks and Spencer and Henkel use recycled plastic in their manufacturing. As a consumer, everyone can support poverty-reduction efforts and the environment by buying products made with these recycled plastics.

Innovative Solutions

The Plastic Bank is continuing to expand its operations and is testing out other innovative solutions by using ocean plastics to end poverty, such as a bottle-deposit program in Vancouver in which all of the money collected from recycled plastics is sent to poor communities around the world. Another idea is to match churches in big cities with those in impoverished nations. For example, a church in London asking its members to bring in plastics and then, with the help of the Plastic Bank, sending the proceeds to a church in Cairo that is able to assist the members of its community suffering from poverty.

The Plastic Bank has formed a system in which plastic waste is given a value, offering individuals a means of income while incentivizing anti-pollution efforts. Not only is this program using ocean plastics to end poverty and to create jobs for locals living in poverty, but it also creates stores in which goods and services most needed by the community are available. As they continue to grow and implement new ideas, the Plastic Bank is supporting those suffering from poverty around the world while tackling a global pollution issue.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Google

How France's Food Waste Law Helps Those In Need
In July 2016, the French Parliament voted unanimously to fine supermarkets that throw away edible food (food that is almost expired or too ‘ugly’ or ‘misshapen’ to sell) or food that is usable as animal feed. France was the first country in the world to pass such a law during a time when food waste has become all too commonplace in first world countries. Supermarkets caught breaking those rules can be fined up to 75,000 euros or two years in prison. This unused food is donated to charities and distributed to those who are living in poverty. This is how France’s food waste law helps those in need.

Feeding Those In Poverty

Prior to this French law forbidding food waste, some supermarkets would deliberately spoil the food they could no longer sell in order to prevent “scavengers” from taking the food out of the trash. Some places would douse the edible or recently expired food in bleach to prevent people in need from going through their trash bins. This law forbids places from doing that.

A year after the law went into effect, over 10 million meals were shared with those lacking the necessary resources to purchase food, which is how France’s food waste law helps those in need. About 5,000 charitable associations work to distribute this food to those in poverty; food that would have, otherwise, been wasted. The St. Vincent de Paul charity in Paris relies heavily on donations from grocery stores. These food items go to churches where they are then distributed to families living in poverty.

Volunteers at the Paris Food Bank collect food from supermarkets and grocery stores every day. One of their locations in Paris handles thousands of tons of food to donate each year; all food that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. These donations are growing. Charities are seeing an increase of 8 to 9 percent in food donations each year.

France’s Food Waste Law Inspires Other Countries

Now, two years after the law went into effect, less than 2 percent of food produced in France has been wasted. People in France waste less than half of the food the typical American wastes. France has become a leader in attempting to eliminate food waste.

Italy has also recently adopted legislation about food waste, and other countries around the world are interested in adopting similar food waste laws, such as Mexico and South Africa. The best part about the law is that it does not cost the state or a taxpayer any money.

There is no hard, scientific proof that this law is helping lift French citizens out of poverty, but it is important to note that poverty rates, which had been climbing in France since 2000, have now been stagnating since 2016 (around the same time the law was implemented). In 2015, 14.2 percent of French citizens were earning less than 60 percent of the median income. In 2016, this number decreased to 13.9 percent. Food that would have otherwise been thrown out is now being given to those who are impoverished, which is how France’s food waste law helps those in need.

Yet, this law isn’t the only solution to ending food waste and solving world hunger. Supermarkets and grocery stores only represent 14 percent of the total food waste, so this law needs to be spread out to other sectors such as schools and restaurants.

In France, supermarkets are no longer just a place for profit; they are now a place for charity and humanity.

– Ariane Komyati
Photo: Flickr

One Woman's Solution to the Trash Crisis in NigeriaNigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with more than 180 million residents within its borders. Fortunately, population growth is not the only growth that Nigeria has been experiencing. Over the last decade, Nigeria’s sizable population has gone to work, quite literally. Sustained growth in the finance, communications, technology, entertainment and service sectors led Nigeria to eclipse South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014. Economic growth is certainly a positive indicator for overall development, but the country’s rapid market expansion is exacerbating the trash crisis in Nigeria, one of the country’s most pressing challenges.

Nigeria’s problem with urban waste management has been mounting for quite some time. Inadequate funding for waste management, poor policies, limited infrastructure and a dearth of professionals with the know-how to address this issue have had undesirable consequences for Nigeria. Urbanization and development have piled on additional issues. Car emissions are unregulated, and Nigerians often turn to generators that emit harmful fumes because of spotty electricity. To combat the trash crisis in Nigeria, many citizens have adopted waste burning as a regular practice. As a result, the country is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world.

Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, has become somewhat of a poster child for the global trash crisis. As trash piles built up on the streets and pollution worsened, one woman from the city found a solution while studying abroad at MIT. A Lagos native, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola relocated to the U.S. to pursue an MBA at MIT. What started as a school assignment grew into the lauded social enterprise known today as Wecyclers.

Adebiyi-Abiola launched Wecyclers in Lagos in 2013 as an answer to the trash crisis in Nigeria. Wecyclers is a low-cost social enterprise that incentivizes recycling for the residents of Lagos’ low-income communities. The process is simple:

  • Lagos households sign up for the recycling collection service online.
  • Participants separate recyclables according to Wecyclers’ guidelines for collection.
  • Wecyclers employees travel on cargo bikes to collect the recyclables once a week, and award points based on weight via an SMS platform.
  • Once participants accumulate a certain amount of points, they can redeem them for various prizes including household goods, electronics and even cash. Wecyclers has teamed up with major brands like Coca-Cola to provide rewards.
  • Wecyclers sells collected recyclables on the market to large buyers of recyclable materials.

Wecyclers’ waste-to-wealth model quickly became a success. Wecyclers recycled more than 525 tons of waste in its first two years. Since launching, the company has enjoyed partnerships with the Lagos Waste Management Agency and corporate sponsors like DHL, Oracle and Unilever. Wecyclers has also received widespread recognition, recently earning the Le Monde Smart-Cities 2017 Global Innovation Award among others.

Since its inception, Wecyclers has expanded beyond a community rewards-for-recycling program. Today, Wecyclers provides both residential and commercial waste collection. The company also conducts sustainability training and consulting for organizations, helping corporate clients and donors develop and implement socially responsible initiatives. Wecyclers has benefited community members and various stakeholders in numerous ways, transforming the old adage: one person’s trash may very well be their treasure.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in KenyaKalobeyei is a town located in the northwestern part of Kenya that was built by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) along with the local government of Turkana county. The town was designed as a location where refugees could become integrated with the local community and where this integration would benefit shared services and markets, thereby reducing the cost for Western aid donors. Unfortunately, this has not exactly worked out as planned for refugees in Kenya.

There have been quite a few issues that have risen since the town’s creation. The most prominent of these issues is that Kalobeyei was established just as South Sudan’s civil war greatly intensified, causing many refugees in Kenya to arrive with hardly anything more than the clothes on their backs, as well as without the proper resources that would help them make an attempt at a new life.

The World Food Programme provides $14 per month as a cash allowance to each refugee, which is supposed to cover up to 80 percent of an individual’s needs in the town. This may not be enough to live off of due to the current conditions these refugees are left in after the civil war, especially since Kalobeyei is hosting nearly 40,000 refugees, including individuals from places such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

There have also been many complaints from the refugees in Kenya who are currently residing in Kalobeyei. Refugees say that little to nothing that they were promised has been offered in the town. They have found themselves in an isolated camp where both food and water are in short supply and that residents are at the mercy of thievery that goes on within Kalobeyei. One resident of the town—an Ethiopian refugee—said, “When they brought us here, we were told that the place would be like a community village with many development projects, a school, clinic, market and almost everything close by,” but there is close to nothing within the settlement that is within walking distance.

When the UNHCR’s office in Kenya heard of this story, communications director Yvonne Ndege had a drastically different description of what life was like residents of Kalobeyei saying that the town was in fact not built in a remote area and had markets, water tanks and primary schools on-site, as well as stating that “there is no heightened security situation or security threat at Kalobeyei or Kakuma.” She went on to explain that refugees had the option to visit the camp before relocating and that perhaps they “may have had different expectations,” despite having viewed Kalobeyei in advance.

Whatever the case may be, it is wise to be empathetic and understanding toward refugees in Kenya when it comes to these situations—having to relocate yourself and your family is never easy, and struggling in a new environment does not make anything less difficult. Hopefully, the UNHCR will empathize and refugees in Kenya will be able to resolve and overcome the issues with Kalobeyei, for the town is meant to only do good.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr


Waste management is an increasingly daunting problem for the country of Bangladesh, where as much as 50 percent of waste goes uncollected. Uncollected waste goes untreated, resulting in more water contamination, disease and greenhouse gas emissions. Untreated waste generates methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Between 2005 and 2020, emissions as a result of untreated waste in Bangladesh are expected to rise 22 percent.

The capital city of Dhaka is not only the most densely populated area; it is also home to the worst waste management in the country. In 2010, Dhaka generated 4,700 metric tons of waste daily. Fortunately, 80 percent of the waste Bangladesh produces is organic material. Maqsood Sinha and Iftekhar Enayetullah saw this as an opportunity and decided to turn the organic waste in Bangladesh into something both profitable and beneficial to the community: compost.

The two enterprising men started an organization called Waste Concern and set up community-based composting. Several families (three to seven) share chest-high metal barrels into which they deposit their food scraps. The composting barrels hold up to 400 pounds of waste, sit on concrete bases and, through specially drilled holes, encourage aerobic decomposition.

Sinha and Enayetullah started Waste Concern in 1995, taking their barrels door-to-door. Since then, the organization has served 30,000 people in Dhaka city and 100,000 people in 14 other cities and towns in Bangladesh, including slums and low and middle-income communities. Composting the organic waste reduces methane emissions by half a ton and eliminates a significant amount of municipal waste. Community-based composting helps control waste in Bangladesh and also opens up job opportunities for low-income sectors, helping to lift people out of poverty.

The project has saved over $1 million in waste management due to the revenue created from the compost itself and the simple, cost-effective system needed to create it. As a result of its success as a small-scale operation in Dhaka, Waste Concern plans to expand into a bigger operation, consume more waste and dump out more compost.

The project’s growth reflects Bangladesh’s push to reduce the country’s waste output and strengthen its economic status. Getting the community involved not only decreases the waste in Bangladesh, but it also establishes an environment of accountability and family.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr