LEVERKUSEN, Germany, November 12, 2012 (ENS) - A Kenyan community project that turns plastic bags into clothing, accessories and housewares has been chosen to receive an international youth award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Award winner Mwanyuma Hope Mugambi, 23, studies environmental sciences Kenyatta University in Mombasa. Mugambi and her team of volunteers created a project to help tackle the environmental, health and biodiversity hazards caused by discarded polythene bags - a big problem in Kenya.
Local women are trained to sew laptop cases, purses, shopping bags and table mats from plastic bags that are collected from around the community. (See related: Green Bag Lady - a US project)
The projects expand the skills of the local women, many of whom come from marginalized communities, and support their income through the sale of the products. Sales fund their school fees, among other needs.
Mugambi, a third year student in Environmental Studies and Community Development, told the "CSR Africa Daily," newspaper, "The aim of the project is to reduce levels of litter in the neighborhood, and also to prevent the release of harmful fumes caused by burning plastic."
"I have always supported a clean environment and hope that I can dedicate my career to achieving this," she said.
The award was presented last week at the closing ceremony of this year's field trip to Germany of the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy Programme, a project under the UNEP-Bayer partnership for youth and the environment.
The 2012 program brought together some 50 young environmental envoys from 19 developing and emerging countries for an environmental study tour in Germany.
They learned about the latest research and technology being applied to waste management, renewable energy, resource efficiency, and other critical environmental issues.
The plastic bag recycling project was one of three winners selected from among entries submitted by the nearly 50 other envoys. Each winner receives a tailor-made package to support and expand their projects, worth EUR 1,000 euros.
Two other young people from Costa Rica and Vietnam were also honored for their work in promoting sustainable development.
An expert panel from UNEP, the UNEP-Wuppertal Institute Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production, "Tunza Magazine," UNEP's publication for young people, and Bayer selected the winners.
"Bayer understands that engaging youths in environmental conservation ensures continuity, consequently making conservation efforts more sustainable. This motivates us to keep supporting this program," said Frans Labuschagne, managing director, Bayer East Africa.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP executive director, said the plastic bag project demonstrates "that young people across the world have the motivation, creativity and knowledge to provide concrete solutions to the world's most critical environmental challenges."
"With the right kind of support," said Steiner, "these innovative projects can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere, thus providing an important contribution to an inclusive, low carbon, resource efficient green economy, which is vital if the world is to meet the resource needs of a global population of nine billion by 2050."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.
Cover photo: Mwanyuma Hope Mugambi is congratulated by Frans Labuschagne of Bayer (Photo courtesy UNEP)