On Wednesday 14th October 2020 John Sao Koroma of Crafty B Fashion World won the first prize of the European Union (EU) Pitch Night in collaboration with Innovation SL on alternatives to single use plastics in Sierra Leone. The winner presented the idea of using cotton materials to make shopping bags and food wrappers thereby providing an alternative to single use plastics.
The event held at the EU residence on Roman Hill in Freetown was attended by high profile dignitaries among them the EU Ambassador, Tom Vens; the Deputy German Ambassador, Patrick Dzierzon; Head, Project Design and Delivery Directorate of Scientific Technology and Innovation (DSTI), F.J. Nandewa-Cole; Estelle Vanetckhout, General Manager Brussels Airlines; and the Irish Ambassador, Lesley Ní Bhriain.
They acted as the judges of the event.
The occasion attracted three innovators who presented novel ideas on how to reduce our dependability on single use plastics. The two other innovators, Alhassan Sesay of Sierra Leone School Green Club made a presentation on how to use seaweed to produce water containers and reduce littering in public spaces especially during huge gatherings like football matches and crowded places such as schools, universities, markets, fuel stations and oil companies.
On the other hand, Kissimi K. Kamara of E-Women Sierra Leone showed that raffia, bamboo, banana leaf and coconut shells can be turned into reusable daily household and shopping items. All the pitchers assured the gathering that their intended products are eco-friendly and bio-degradable.
In his opening remarks, EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone Tom Vens expressed delight collaborating with Innovation SL to host the Pitch Night.
“The theme we have chosen is: “Can we get rid of single use plastic in Sierra Leone? What would be the alternative?’ We are losing nature like never before in all parts of the world. All scientists agree on this: biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. Overpopulation, pollution and climate change all contribute to biodiversity loss.”
Furthermore, he explained that the new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 adopted in May wants at least 30% of the EU territory to consist of natural areas by restoring degraded ecosystems and setting aside 10% of the EU’s long term budget (2021-2027) to improve biodiversity.
“Internationally, EU engages 350 million euros per year on biodiversity in developing countries and funding protected areas in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki Swayerr, participating through the Zoom virtual platform, said the Pitch Night event fits in the Sanitation Policy of her Transform Freetown agenda.
“We intend to increase liquid and solid waste collection to 60% by 2022. More so, we intend to increase recycling of plastics and limit the use of single use plastics through collaboration with government ministries, departments and agencies,” she asserted. For his part, Walid Bahsoon of Premier Enviro Solution stated that plastic is not going away soon. “90 – 100 tonnes of plastics waste is generated daily in Freetown. 50% of this is non-recyclable and ends up in gutters, rivers, beaches and drainages. So, we have to look for innovative ways of living with them,” he said through Zoom.
The Deputy Head of EU Mission, Madam Jamila eL Elassiei, encouraged the pitchers to be bold and calm when pitching their ideas and take their time to respond to the questions posed by the judges and participants. The Managing Director, Innovation SL, Francis Stevens George, moderated the Pitch Night and said the beach clean-up was an eye opener as some of our plastic waste ends up in Europe.
“We need to come up with community based solutions to tackle the problem,” he averred. The Media Officer EU, N’fa Alie, revealed that the winner of Pitch Night will travel to a country of his choice to incubate his ideas and return to implement them.
By David Thoronka