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Tunisia faces a growing problem with plastic waste

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Plastic waste is a big problem in Tunisia.

It’s estimated that around 80 thousand tonnes of plastic waste litter the seaside.

The government has now joined forces with local waste collectors, or barbechas, as they are known in order to clean up the country. For many this activity is a full time job.

“I assure you that between 60-70% of the residents of this neighbourhood work in the collection of plastic. And in every place that collects waste like this, you will find people looking for plastic. The amount of plastic decreases in winter compared to summer when plastic bottles are overused” claims plastic collector Ridha Alaya.

Environmental associations see recycling as the only way to reduce plastic waste in the country.

Previously, the government announced that would ban single-use plastics by the end of 2021.

Sami Ben Yahia is the president of ACT’UP, an association that works for a cleaner Tunisia.

“The recycling process helps in the controlled disposal of waste and contributes to creating a green economy and reducing pollution, reducing CO2 emissions. The recycling process requires less energy than producing a new product”, says Sami Ben Yahia.

But why does Tunisia have such a plastic crisis? Some argue that it’s a result of the deteriorating political and economic situation that has affected the North African country for the last decade.

“The reasons are many, such as the lack of a budget, a shortage of trucks for waste, in addition to a shortage of manpower”, explains Mehdi Jerbi, procurement official at ACT’UP.

Estimates suggest that about 6,8 kilos of plastic are discarded daily on every kilometre of Tunisia’s beaches.

The country’s shore stretches for over 1 300 kilometres.