Senegal’s ‘Plastic Man’ on mission to raise awareness of trash pollution

By Maria Rodriguez

Dakar, Jun 28 (EFE).- Environmental activist Modou Fall, walks through the streets of Dakar clad in dozens of multicolored plastic bags.

The 50-year-old has become well known in the city for wearing his custom plastic clothing to raise awareness of plastic pollution.

On his head, a blue beret with a badge of the Senegalese flag represents “the little blue that remains of the clean ocean,” he tells EFE.

On his chest, a poster in French reads: “Everyone against the silent killer: plastic danger.”

“No one thinks about the dangers that plastic generates. We believe that it is part of our lives, but it is not, it is here to kill us,” he tells EFE during an interview in Guédiawaye, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Dakar.

“If we’re not careful, we’re always at risk of being swallowed up by non-recyclable disposable packaging,” Fall warns.

The activist says that in his country many have an issue with discipline that “is beginning to gain ground.”

“Everyone does what they want without looking at who is hurting,” he laments.

Fall’s fight against plastic pollution began when he was working as a street vendor in the Senegalese capital. He would look on while other merchants tossed the packaging of the gadgets they sold onto the ground, while he preferred to store the waste in his pocket.

He recalls how, when selling on the streets of Dakar, foreigners would tell him that Senegal was a great country that had everything except cleanliness.

In Senegal it is difficult to escape plastic. It is everywhere: in the ocean, on the beaches, scattered on bushes, littering the streets and piled up high in full view of passersby.

Although Senegal has passed two anti-plastics laws, one in 2015 and another in 2020, waste continues to scourge public spaces.

Fall remembers that when he started his activism people thought he was crazy and that maybe he had been bewitched.

At that time he admits, he “did not know the effects of plastic,” but the feedback he got encouraged him to pursue his project and “show that it is possible to have a very clean capital.”

In 2006 he launched the Senegal Propre (Clean Senegal) organization, and years later he decided to focus on plastics as they make up the majority of waste in the West African nation.

Some 200,000 tons of plastic waste are produced every year on average in Senegal. Of that, only 9,000 tons is recycled, according to government data.

In 2015, was awarded a National Order of Merit medal by President Macky Sall, but his activism has also meant he has been the target of powerful plastic manufacturers and he has even had death threats.

Fall also aims to build awareness by organizing clean-ups on beaches and near stadiums, where around 3,000 sachets of water are chucked onto the streets after each game.

But his efforts go beyond rubbish collection.

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