Staff at the Swedish Embassy in Kinshasa wanted to send out a signal about environmental efforts, and they succeeded in getting people around them involved. Lots of people wondered why they were running around in yellow tops collecting litter. The answer: They were #PloggingForThePlanet!
Climate change and the environment are top priorities in the Statement of Foreign Policy and also for the Embassy in Kinshasa. One striking difference between waste management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sweden is the lack of recycling in the former. As there are no bins, rubbish is thrown out of the windows of minibuses or onto the street by pedestrians, or it is burnt in piles in shanty towns as well as by the outer walls of houses.
The Swedish Embassy in Kinshasa is located just a stone’s throw away from the Congo River, Africa’s second largest river with a powerful flow into the Atlantic. Unfortunately, the river is also a place where a lot of plastic bags and bottles are thrown, also systematically as large amounts of the rubbish that is actually collected ends up here – and contributes to the well-known global trend towards more plastic than fish in the oceans.
The amount of rubbish on the streets of Kinshasa has resulted in the less than flattering nickname Kin la Poubelle (rubbish bin Kinshasa) in contrast to the former nickname Kin la Belle (beautiful Kinshasa). In light of the challenges facing the country from a humanitarian, economic and political perspective, but also to take a broader approach, we decided to take action for the environment, for our immediate surroundings and to send a signal about the importance of an integrated environmental perspective on both a small and a large scale.
In partnership with the local organisation SOCOGEN and with inspiration from similar initiatives at other missions abroad, the Embassy carried out a plogging session around the neighbourhood of Avenue Roi Beaudoin and Avenue Tchatchi, as well as along the path by the River Congo.
Plogging is a Swedish concept that combines jogging and litter-picking. It is an activity that has a positive impact on the environment, but also on the physical well-being of the participants. Plogging is a multifaceted form of workout as the fitness and stamina training from the jogging is combined with strength as participants bend down to pick up litter and carry what ends up being a rather heavy bag of rubbish.
The day began with an introduction to plogging as a concept and a discussion about various climate and environment issues. We set off dressed in yellow tops with #PloggingInDRC printed on the back and equipped with gloves and rubbish bags. Curious people along the route wondered:
“Why are they running around in yellow tops picking up litter?”
We received spontaneous questions and cheerful encouragement from Embassy colleagues and people in the street. It was moving to see the dedication, joy and engagement from all Embassy staff.
“Today we introduced the concept of plogging in the DRC. It’s an initiative that is good for people’s heath, but primarily for the environment. We hope this activity will inspire others to follow our example,” said Ambassador Maria Håkansson.
Plans are already under way for the next plogging activity in the DRC, with an initiative to broaden cooperation and include more partners. We now urge more to follow our initiative #PloggingInDRC for #kinshasalabelle, because in the words of Olivier Baliahamwabo, officer responsible for programmes related to human safety at the Embassy in Kinshasa:
“The environment is everyone’s business!”
Written by Ludvig Perman/Taimi Köster