James Wakibia, 35, is a Kenyan photographer and environmental activist who is credited with starting the movement with led to the country’s nationwide ban on single plastics, which started in 2017.
James’ activism began after pollution in his hometown of Nakuru, 150 km from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi became so bad, he felt compelled to act.
In 2015, Wakibia started a social media campaign, using the Twitter hashtag #banplasticsKE, to call for a ban on plastics, with a focus on bags and the campaign soon won the support of Kenyan ministers.
James felt the plastic bag ban was a good place to start, however, he would love to see all countries choking with plastic waste to start phasing out single-use plastic bags, straws, cups and forks.
James also believes plastic bottles should, and can, be recycled. A way to help this happen would be for the government to ensure that all plastic bottles are made from standardised materials which would make it easier to produce a quality, recycled product.
But James also feels the massive problem of plastic could be more effectively tackled by making manufacturers take responsibility for the cleanup of their products. Added to this, he feels there would need to be alternatives together with the sustainable packaging of goods.
But the biggest problem to environmental protection, in James’ opinion, is that politicians have vested interests in companies that produce plastics. They are therefore not motivated to support measures that reduce the use of plastics, or to passing legislation compelling manufacturers to act in a more environmentally sustainable way.
James has organised clean-ups of plastics, but he feels this cannot compare with tackling the problem at source. Nonetheless, James continues to lobby for change. He mostly relies on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the growing problem of plastic pollution and more importantly, to begin to change the behaviours of both consumers and legislators.
James’ Twitter accounts are @jameswakibia and @banplasticsnow and he blogs on Facebook and Medium.