Our Burning Planet


Picking up plastic pollution – one woman’s goal to clean up Nigeria’s beaches, and empower women and youth

Picking up plastic pollution – one woman’s goal to clean up Nigeria’s beaches, and empower women and youth
Doyinsola Ogunye, the founder of multiple environmental awareness organisations in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo: Supplied)

Widespread plastic pollution is just one way humans have affected the planet. But just because the problem is daunting, doesn’t mean it can’t be remedied. Just ask Doyinsola Ogunye.

Doyinsola Ogunye founded multiple organisations in Lagos — including the Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC) and the Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment (Reswaye) — in an attempt to tackle the waste problem while also engaging and empowering women and youth.

“I spend most of my free time on the beach,” Ogunye said. “I was opportune to have parents who allowed me to go out and put my legs in the sand and get injured or just play and just be kids. But right now, a lot of children don’t even go out.”

plastic pollution

Doyinsola Ogunye works with children, educating them about the importance of clearing waste from local beaches in Nigeria. (Photo: Supplied)

Ogunye’s work with children not only helps rein in the problem of plastic pollution on beaches, but also connects them to the nature around them.

“We need to expose children to nature because they are a part of nature,” Ogunye said.

Ogunye’s work with MEDIC is just one way of fostering that connection to the environment. 

Children who are enrolled with the initiative help pick up plastic from the local beaches and learn invaluable information on how to lessen their impact on the environment. They learn how to recycle and upcycle waste, how to plant trees and about aquatic biodiversity.

In addition to her work with the young, Ogunye also strives to empower women through sustainable practices. Through Reswaye, more than 4,000 women have registered across 41 communities to make money by recycling and living sustainably.

plastic pollution

Doyinsola Ogunye teaches children about the importance of clearing waste from local beaches in Nigeria. (Photo: Supplied)

Seeing how common it was that people would burn or dump their trash on the beach, Ogunye decided to show them another way. 

“We thought, ‘why don’t we educate them and orientate them and also let them know that you’re able to make money with recycling… you’re able to pay school fees for your children… you’re able to afford a proper meal and also start other businesses that you’re passionate about’.”

Reswaye purchases plastic from these women and children, giving them another source of income. The plastic is then sent to recycling plants where it is sorted, compressed and repurposed into bottles, hangers, toys and more.

plastic pollution

Doyinsola Ogunye encourages locals to earn money through recycling. (Photo: Supplied)

Taking sustainability one step further, Reswaye also connects with the community. Anyone who would like to can donate their collected plastics, and, instead of taking the proceeds for themselves, they can give it to a woman or family in the community that they know might be struggling.

“Some people and some organisations will support us with their recyclables and say, ‘I don’t have funds for these recyclables but I need you to support this pregnant woman, for example.

“Or, ‘I’m going to be giving you all my plastic so that when it is sold we’re able to support this community’, and so on and so forth,” Ogunye explained.

The work that Ogunye does focuses on the future of the planet, but also on the current status of vulnerable people and communities. She wants to ensure that people have the right – and knowledge – to live sustainable lives.

“There are a lot of ‘no’s’ when it comes to the great outdoors: parents don’t want the children to go to the beach; they don’t want the children to swim in the water,” Ogunye said.

“It limits people in their mindset… We need to move away from that and come out and adventure.” DM 

To read all about Daily Maverick’s recent The Gathering: Earth Edition, click here.

Absa OBP

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