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Global Ideas

Zero plastic on Principe

Trading plastic trash for a reusable stainless steel bottle. This idea, among others, is helping the island of Principe go plastic-free. The program has already eliminated hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles.

Watch video 07:54

Principe – Looking to a plastic-free future

Project goal: To make the island of Principe plastic-free by 2020 while also improving recycling of organic trash and supporting a sustainable economy in the biosphere reserve
Project implementation: Principe has been a biosphere reserve since 2012, since 2014 there has been a trade-in program with participation of transportation and recycling companies, where plastic bottles are exchanged for stainless steel drinking bottles on a regular basis
Project size: Principe has 8,000 inhabitants and an area of 136 square kilometers
Project volume: During 17 plastic trade-in events, more than 456,000 plastic bottles were collected, amounting to almost six tons 
Biodiversity: The Atlantic rainforest of the island is among the 75 most biodiverse and important in Africa. The island nation of São Tomé and Principe is home to almost 900 different plants, more than 60 birds - 25 of them endemic - as well as numerous endemic reptiles and amphibians. So far, 105 fish species have been, recorded although large parts of the marine biodiversity have not been documented yet. 

What to do with all that plastic trash when there is no proper disposal and no recycling? That is a pressing question, especially on islands like São Tomé and Principe. 

On the latter, environmentalists are trying to get a handle on the flood of plastic with the help of collection and exchange programs. In regular intervals, plastic bottles can be traded in for reusable stainless steel drinking bottles. Those who bring in 50 plastic bottles, get one metal bottle in exchange. 

The project has gotten off to a good start: More than 450,000 plastic bottles have been collected already. By 2020, the island wants to be free of plastic. Since UNESCO has declared the island a biosphere reserve, the local government and population are trying to find the right balance between economic development and conservation. 

A film by Vanessa Fischer
 

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