COC-SL Launches “Just Say No to Plastic bags ” Campaign in Freetown

Community organisation Citizen Outreach Coalition Sierra Leone (COC-SL) has launched an ambitious three years campaign to reduce the massive damage plastic bags cause to the environment across Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Shoppers have been depending on free plastic bags when shopping for groceries and small items for a long time, unaware of the damage they cause to the environment. The organisation did this by distributing hundreds of reusable degradable shopping bags to shoppers and people on the streets. 20 volunteers launched the campaign in Jui, located just outside the east end of the Sierra Leonean Capital Freetown on March 4 2023. Similar campaigns are ongoing in other areas of the capital and will continue into the foreseeable future.

Beneficiaries were contacted in shops, market places and on the streets and told how damaging repeatedly using single plastic shopping bags were to the environment. All the people they talked to were then given the free degradable plastic bags COC-SL procured for the campaign

There are numerous reports that say plastic bags take on average 300 years to degrade and easily break into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and enters the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them

Mary Sesay a market trader was ecstatic when she received her free bag. “This is a good project because it would stop me and others from throwing plastic bags after use. I would spread the message to others and show them my bag”.

Another trader Kadiatu Sesay said “when I was young. we never used plastic bags for shopping. We took containers and baskets when we went shopping. Plastic bags are bad to our environment so I will be using my bag each time I shop for groceries and other small items”

Excited Project volunteers

COC-SL recruited 20 volunteers who were briefly trained on the campaign and distribution of the bags. Most of them were volunteering for the very first time  

After campaigning and distributing the bags at the Jui Market and from Kroo Town Road to Dovecot in Freetown, a tired but delighted Mohamed Sankoh said it was a privilege to be involved in the campaign for something that was needed like the degradable bags campaign. He promised to be always available for future campaigns

Another Volunteer Fatmatma Koroma added  “…The campaign today was very successful.  We explained to people why plastic bags were and why they should stop throwing them after usage. We showed them blocked gutters and the plastics causing the blockages. They would hopefully pass on the messages to others”.

COC-SL Project Manager Francis Langley admitted there were numerous challenges involved in the project delivery considering it included changing the way people behave. “Most people are used to using free plastic bags for their shopping. Explaining to them that this damages the environment is difficult because  we cannot prove this to them in real time. We will continue educating people and will include radio, newspaper and TV campaigns which we hope gets to the largest number of people. For now, we are paying for this campaign out of our pockets and hope to eventually get some funding to expand it”.

There are plans to also take the campaign out of the capital Freetown to other provinces

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