In Senegal some students are learning to transform waste into colorful benches

World Today

Senegal recycling initiaitvePhoto credit: 3000 Ecomen

At a school in Keur Moussa, 40 kilometers from Senegal’s capital Dakar, pupils are hard at work on a recycling project: making benches out of old tyres and rubbish.

Students first fill the tyres with non-biodegradable waste and some dirt to form a strong, solid base.

Ousmane Sow heads the project under French NGO, 3000 Ecomen.

“At first there were no garbage bins in the school, but since we started to build those recycled benches, the school started to bring some bins. What we see as rubbish, for example when someone buys a drink, they drink and throw away the bottle. It’s not like that now, what we throw away is more valuable, so I can say that now they (the students) understand that waste goes here and not there, so as to make something useful out of it,” Sow said.

Senegal produces about 2 million tonnes of waste a year.

Authorities have launched several initiatives to fight against pollution, including a ban on plastic bags, but these have not been successful.

This initiative is aimed at teaching students about waste management and recycling.

“Yes it’s important that the school is clean because people come here and see a clean school, and that is good. Only clean school is good, because anybody can come here to visit, to look and so school should be clean,” said one pupil working on the project, Oureye Diakhate.

Once the tyres are filled with waste and sand, they are wrapped with a wire mesh and covered in a mixture of cement and water, then left to dry.

“We don’t need electricity or to use energy consuming materials. We are on the ground. When we go on the ground, there are tyres, rubbish, everything is free, and we build benches out of that,” added Sow.

So far seven benches have been built at the Keur Moussa Secondary School and teachers say there is more awareness about keeping the school clean and organizing waste.

“It allowed us to pick up waste and recycle, which is already a first step towards improving the school’s environment because all the bags and empty bottles that were lying around were picked up, put inside the tyres, compacted, and that really enabled us to clean the environment around us,” said Keur Moussa Secondary School supervisor, Anis Seck.

Before launching the various training workshops, Ecomen first tested the project’s viability at Sow’s house. He made a variety of functional pieces in his courtyard including tables and chairs.

In 2015, the NGO was commissioned to rehabilitate the grounds at the country’s biggest university, Cheikh Anta Diop, where they worked in collaboration with the university’s Institute of Environment.

Once a bare space, it now has 400 colourful tables and benches, as well as a dozen flower pots made out of 900 recycled car tyres and 60 tonnes of waste.

Students spend more time studying outdoors these days or just hanging out in the refurbished space.

“At first there were few students who came here to learn because there were trees, there was rubbish and all that. It was a bit dirty. But today people come here everyday to clean the chairs and so on, to pick up the rubbish that is in the environment,” said one student Mamadou Ndiaye.

3000 Ecomen has completed over 50 projects, building benches in school yards and other common areas. More than 16,000 tyres and 17,000 tonnes of waste have been recycled and transformed for the organisation’s projects in Senegal alone.

The organisation has also undertaken similar projects in Tunisia, Morocco and Ethiopia, where is also conducting training.

Story by Reuters.