Recycling Plastic and Community Conversations

Mzungu! Mzungu! How are you? I am fine.” This phrase, or more accurately song, has been repeated to me without mercy by anyone and everyone who catches a glimpse of me as I have been working in the informal settlement of Nyalenda for the past week. Mzungu, meaning white person, appears to be my new name as I settle down in Kisumu and begin my work with BAMATO. I was greeted at BAMATO on Monday with a machete and an endless pile of plastic containers, bottles, toys, and various other plastic objects and instructed to chop them into small pieces so they could eventually grind them into chips. I am proud to say that I have not lost any fingers or limbs in the process, and gained a tremendous amount of respect for the men who do that work everyday. Over the course of the week I have learned that these chips are sold to various firms who make them back into other products. This work helps to employ people in the settlement, through the workers directly at BAMATO and the people who sell the plastic that is gathered from dumps and the street and sold to the organization. Beyond the recycling work that BAMATO runs, they also organize community conversations that I was able to attend. The topics of these discussions ranged from issues between tenants and landlords to devolved governance to encouraging more community based organizations to open an account with Barclays Bank. 

I am with BAMATO for another week and it looks as if I will be helping teach some of the other employees how to use excel. Oh yea and I pet a Cheetah. 

Augie Masucci ’17