The aim for Michael and his fellows is to create a movement to encourage more people to recycle – and to care about the environment

In Nairobi, Kenya, the problem with plastic is very visible as it is not collected and eventually clogs up the city drainage systems. When Michael Muinde and his fellow alumni heard about the #PlasticFreeWeek challenge run by the Swedish Institute, it was pretty clear what was most urgently needed - information and a city clean-up.
Two alumni in training clothes picking up litter from the street.

“People don’t really sort their waste here like they do in Sweden. We tried to make people in Nairobi aware of sorting waste and avoiding single-use plastics. The drainage systems are often blocked in the city due to plastic rubbish. It’s a big challenge both for the environment and for the city”, says Micheal Muinde, board member of SI Alumni Network in Kenya.

They put members of the Sweden alumni network in touch with local NGOs working for the environment and clean cities. They even got the support of the local government. Together they executed the plastic-free challenge and organised a major plogging event. Plogging – a Swedish initiative taken by people who got fed up going for a run and seeing trash on the ground – means going for a jog and picking up rubbish at the same time. They got 73 people to participate in the plogging, fewer than last year’s 200 participants, but still impressive considering the pandemic.

Thanks to committed individuals like Michael, the Plastic-free week is both recurring and ongoing: ‘Most participants try to avoid plastic all year round and not just during the week. As for the plogging and city clean-up, we plan to do it again next year. We plan for it to be a recurring thing in Nairobi.’

During the plogging, participants stopped and talked with local business owners and people passing on the street.

The aim for Michael and his fellows is to create a movement to encourage more people to recycle – and to care about the environment more generally. And they have the support of the county government of Nairobi, who are happy about the initiative to clean up the city.

“After the plogging, we executed a tree planting event, planting a thousand trees. We brought high school kids and university students together and advised them on the need of tree planting and avoiding plastics. The Kenya Forest Research Institute and the students helped us plant the trees. We also arranged for some people to care for the trees once planted.”

Pink plasticfreeweek logo
Photo: Sohail Noorain
#PlasticFreeWeek in Russia and more
Read more about the global challenge - interview with alumni Maksim Dybok, Pranati Shroff and Christy Wong.
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