Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing a real pollution apocalypse in recent days, after the floods that have transformed plastic waste into real rivers.
The streets have become rivers where millions of plastic bottles float, which have invaded the poor suburbs of the capital Kinshasa.
According to data from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 70-80 percent of municipal solid waste generated on the continent would be recyclable. Only 4 percent of this garbage is recycled. The problem is felt by all African countries and some have taken steps to stem pollution.
Sixteen African nations have banned plastic but have not introduced regulations to ensure compliance. The ban, therefore, becomes impracticable. Eritrea in 2005 enacted a law banning the import, production, sale or distribution of plastic bags.
Kenya and Senegal have also banned plastic bags, but it is difficult to enforce the law. The only countries where the ban on the use of plastic bags is working are Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. In Rwanda, the ban has been serious and has been in place for years.
In Bukavu, 2,300km east of Kinshasa, thousands of bottles thrown into the Ruzizi River routinely clog the turbines of the hydroelectric plant. An apocalypse.
Plastic pollution consists of the dispersion and accumulation of plastic materials in the environment, which causes problems for the habitat of wild fauna and flora, as well as for humans.
This type of pollution can affect the air, soil, rivers, lakes and oceans. The importance of the phenomenon derives from the cheapness of plastic, its diffusion, its widespread use in various sectors of activity and its high persistence over time.
The pioneer of the problem of plastic in the seas was the biologist Edward Carpenter of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who in 1972 published two articles in Science denouncing the massive presence of floating plastic particles in the Sargasso Sea, articles that were almost ignored for thirty years .
Halogen plastics release harmful chemicals to the surrounding soil, which penetrate deeply into groundwater or other water sources. The damage is very serious for the living species that take in this polluted water. The areas used as landfills are constantly filled with plastic waste.
In these areas there are many microorganisms that accelerate the biological degradation of plastics. As for biodegradable plastics, methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming, is released as soon as they are thrown away.
Some landfills are taking the initiative to install methane capture devices, which could be used for energy, but most plants have not yet adopted them. Since the 1990s, a mass of floating waste has been identified consisting mainly of plastic fragments smaller than 5 millimeters in an area of at least one million square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean called the Pacific Garbage Patch.
80% of the debris is assumed to come from the mainland via rivers. Plastic pollution affects not only the Pacific Ocean, but the Mediterranean Sea as well. In the northwest of the island of Elba, between the Corsican horn and Capraia, an island of plastic waste made up of fragments smaller than 2 millimeters has appeared.