When we were young plastics was not really an issue. Most of the things including toothpaste tubes were made out of metal so plastic was not a big issue as it is now. Some of you might remember those tins of kimbo which we used to use as we played cha mama and we cooked grass in them. Sometimes managing to get some charcoal or sticks for firewood so that we could cook a “meal” for girls who grew up in the 80’s in Nairobi this was probably part of their reality. Or those tins which we used to poke holes into and put hot charcoal or put on the jiko so that we could hot comb our hair. Hands up if you did that. Paper bags in the supermarkets were made of paper and even bread was wrapped in paper, not plastic. Well some of you might remember those days but some of you were born in the age of plastics in Kenya.
In the 1990s plastics became popular with the rise of capitalism and with it, a problem was born. Plastic pollution. Plastics are a problem everywhere, they block our drainages, they are eaten by animals and sometimes kill them, they pollute our lakes, rivers and streets. The worst thing about plastics is that most of them are not biodegradable so if not disposed of properly they can become a hazard to the environment. Unfortunately, we may think that when they are taken to the dumps they are disposed of properly but that’s not true. While some of the items like plastic bottles are usually taken for recycling or reused most of the other waste like torn plastic bags are either burnt (which is also harmful to the environment) or just left there.
If we can do our part, however little it is, we could help make Kenya and the planet. We can still reuse plastics or other items around the house and I will give you a few tips on how to do that.
1. Carrier bags- you can use this as trash bags. Just line your bin with one and when it is full you can remove it, tie a knot and keep it ready for the trash man.
2. The big biscuit plastic jars can be used to store rice, maize meal etc. You can also store some and take them upcountry where there are many uses for them.
3. Clean plastic jars for things like peanut butter and use them to store odds and ends. You can also use them to store food items like spices or detergent.
4. Buy refill packs for things like Royce, cocoa and coffee and pour them into the plastic containers you had previously bought the product in.
5. Bread paper bags can be used to store things like cooked beans and maize in the fridge.
6. Do your plastic buckets have holes or cracks? Turn it into a litter bin. Or cut it into a smaller bucket and grow plants and flowers to beautify your home or compound.
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7. If you have old clothes that are too torn to be thrown away you can turn some into rags for using around the house. You may also have some clothes made out of good quality material but which for some reason cannot be worn why not make cushion covers or table mats.
8. When we were kids eggs came in paper carton trays. Nowadays it is plastic trays. Once you are done with your trays don’t throw them away. I have an auntie who has layers. We keep the cartons for her and give them to her when we see her. As she also gives us eggs it makes it easy to store the eggs when we get them. Look for somebody to give the trays too or reuse them.
9. Scrap paper can be used by your children to make notes or sketches. They can also be turned into paper mache for your children to make things with. You can also do the same with newspapers. There are some pretty cool things to be made with paper mache as can be seen on the show art attack.
10. Recycle some of your waste like potato skins; carrot peels etc. by placing them in your plants to help them grow. You will never have to use fertilizer.
11. Cut off the bottoms of water bottles and plant seedlings in them.
12. You can also use plastic water bottles as an irrigation system. Drill a small hole in the middle of the cap of a plastic water bottle. Put water in the bottle, screw it tightly shut and place it strategically next to a plant where it can drip water into the plant.
14. You can use leftover foil to pack items that need to be kept waterproof. You can also place foil behind plans in the shade to reflect light on them.
15. Reuse plastic bags for shopping until they can’t be used anymore. If you can get the recycled bags that are sold in the supermarket use that for your shopping instead of getting new plastic bags every time you shop.
16. Wash yoghurt cups and use them as cups for drinking water.