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We’re drowning in plastics. Is it too late?

Sunday November 17 2019

Plastic

Plastic waste at Ngong Dumpsite in Kajiado County on March 17, 2019. We have a very big problem in our hands that banning of plastic bags cannot even begin to solve. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE NJUNG'E
By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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As I write this, I am covered with dust up to my eyebrows, and each time I cough, a little dust escapes from my mouth.

I have just come from River Road, where I have spent about 45 minutes looking for red or green ribbon.

If you haven’t been to River Road lately, the streets that side of Nairobi are akin to a shamba, thanks to the ankle-length dust that characterises the roads and pavements.

I had hoped to get the ribbon in the two supermarkets near my place of work, but none stocked the type that had been specified in my son’s school diary. ‘Small ribbons (red or green)’, the note from the teacher had read.

I knew where I had to go to get the elusive ribbon, but I was hesitant to extend my hunt to River Road because I have seen some bad things happen to people down there, the same place where my bag was recently slashed by a thief in the hope that the contents would spill out.

ELUSIVE RIBBON

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I had no option though, because the mysterious school project, which also required an old newspaper “with pictures”, manila paper, glitter pen (glitter what?) and glue, had to be done the next day.

And so I ploughed into River Road with trepidation, this time holding my bag across my chest like a shield — I told myself that if there was any slashing of bags to be done, the thief would have to pry my hands off my bag first.

I had thought that I would be quickly successful in my search, after all, River Road has it all under one roof, but I was wrong.

There were ribbons alright, but all were made using some plastic-like slippery material, which was not just going to serve the purpose. They were also wide, and wide is not small, right?

PLASTIC

As I feverishly searched for the elusive ribbon, it was a hot afternoon, ducking from one textile shop to another, careful not to step on the wares hawkers had draped the pavements with, I could not help noticing how everything on sale was made of plastic — plastic flowers to decorate your home with, plastic tiaras for the bride-to-be, plastic chairs, plastic stools, plastic spoons, plastic tables, plastic weaves, plastic eyelashes — we truly are in the age of plastic, since everything I saw seemed to be made of plastic.

I recently read a feature in BBC arguing that in future, plastic will most likely be used as the geological marker of what this generation has left behind.

The feature was talking about microplastics, which are among the most widespread contaminants on the planet.

What a downgrade it would be to progress from the bronze age, the iron age, to the age of plastic.

BIG PROBLEM

Looking at all that sea of plastic, it occurred to me that we have a very big problem in our hands that banning of plastic bags cannot even begin to solve.

Anyway, I finally managed to find the ribbon that had been specified and chose the red one over the green, telling myself it was the colour that best represented my valiant and indefatigable search in support of one of the future leaders of Kenya.

For some reason, I feel as if I should be compensated for all the hassle I went through, emerging unscathed, and in River Road, of all places.

The writer is the Editor, ‘Society’ and Magazines, ‘Daily Nation’; [email protected]

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