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Dow - Project Butterfly

Plastic is a prominent problem in our lives.

Whilst in recent years, there has been greater education in western countries, leading to the introduction of the 5p cost for a plastic bag and a general increase in consumer demand for sustainable items such as reusable coffee cups, plastic is still a prevalent issue in much of Africa.

Dow, a leading materials science company founded in 1897, has pioneered the need for change and is investing in a world where circular economies are the norm. Their ‘DON’T LET IT GO TO WASTE’ initiative focuses specifically on plastics for a circular world. Their forward-thinking development has a three-part strategy, finding ways to

‘continue to provide the convenience of plastic, the protection of plastic, the affordability and safety of plastic, while ensuring that none of that plastic ends up in the environment or is lost to landfill’. The former three aims are vital, particularly in developing countries where due to less education on environmental sustainability and a need for cheap products, plastic is the preferable material. To combat this, Dow are champions initiatives such as Project Butterfly (introduced in 2017), guiding innovative solutions into flight to fight plastic problems in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Algeria. The project aims to re-shape the mindsets and educate the people of areas most effected by pollution and poverty, providing sustainable jobs, allowing families to be supported.

These people are called ‘Wastepreneurs’ and are able to form an income off the collection and exchange of recyclable waste. In the words of Duduzile Magubane, a Wastepreneur apart of Project Butterfly, he says “As a single parent, I am now able to work and provide for my children.” Wastepreneurs are helping to advance the circular economy in Africa, and as many African countries rapidly develop, this provides them the opportunity to bypass the linear style economy so many western countries have stagnated in.

Project Butterfly unites local residents, NGOs, governments, educators and community leaders, allowing the many gaps in plastic recycling to be bridged. It is helping people understand there is a value in waste, and that it is not just another mean with an abrupt end. Examples of NGOs Project Butterfly work with include ChildFund and Mr Green Africa. Keiran Smith, the co-founder of Mr. Green Africa explains the importance of “paying people for the plastic waste they collect” allowing much needed access to “health care, and a cleaner environment”.

The movement is inspiring many across the continent, providing an opportunity to pioneer teamwork between children to government officials.

This article was inspired by a piece in the National Geographic (issue 04.2020 - Earth Day 50th Anniversary Special). For more information please see:

- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/04/

- https://dont-waste.dow.com/en-us

- https://environmentjournal.online/articles/tackling-plastic-pollution-in-south-africa/

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@2020 by WIDS Team

University Of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Rd, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

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