Celebrating Earth Day by reducing plastic usage

By Bank Windhoek’s Sustainable Finance and Environmental, Social and Governance Analyst, Joachim Komeheke. 

Namibia has one of the most pristine environments protected by its laws. The country’s commitment to ecological preservation has made it a tourist destination and an economic sector employing many Namibians. This further incentivises locals to preserve the integrity of the land and wildlife, especially those within the protected conservancy areas. 

In its 54th year, the commemoration of World Earth Day celebrated on 22 April, advocates and encourages environmental stewardship to protect the environment from pollution, habitat destruction and deforestation. This year’s commemoration is themed “Earth vs Plastics”.


Reducing pollution of various forms, especially plastic

Waste is a primary environmental concern globally, especially non-degradable products such as plastics, a significant innovation that makes life easy in terms of packaging, insulation, medical applications, and prostheses. Its various products have ensured that many have access to affordable and essential necessities. While plastic has many valuable applications, the issue lies with single-use, disposable plastic items such as plastic bags, disposable cutlery and fast-food containers. These items are becoming a significant concern on Earth that houses a population of over seven billion people.

Beyond its solid waste issue, microplastics are now becoming a great concern, which are any plastic particles smaller than five millimetres. The full extent of microplastics is yet to be understood. However, the accumulation of waste of this size in the environment will have likely have a negative impact, especially when it enters the food chain. Numerous scientific studies are already detecting microplastics in water bodies and drinking water across the globe. 

There is an interconnectedness and balance between the environment, society and economy. Ensuring all these spheres are in a perpetual optimal state is crucial for us right now and future generations. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6, 12, 13 and14, all draw reference to reducing pollution of various forms, with plastic being one of those pollutants of great concern. The core principle underlying these goals as it relates to plastic is that reducing its use, grounded in promoting recycling and circular economies which ultimately leads to its reduced use. To achieve these goals and other SDG related goals, as members of the international community conceded efforts to direct finance toward efforts that aim to create an impact within these areas therefore cultivating green sustainable economies. 

Financing projects with environmental or social benefits

As a Namibian bank, Bank Windhoek's mandate is linked to ensuring funding is directed towards projects and initiatives incorporating environmental and social considerations. One example of implementing this mandate is through the Bank’s Sustainability Loan product, earmarked explicitly for financing projects or initiatives with environmental or social benefits.

Being an active participant within the sustainability niche, we can highlight a few projects and initiatives observed to be doing great work in reducing waste, explicitly linking to the issue of plastic: 

1. Rent-A-Drum: This company within the Namibian recycling sector has excellent growth potential.

2. Wapa Nawa Recycling Centre is a promising project that transforms waste plastic into building material while creating income streams for many women within their communities. 

3. The Namibian government’s environmental levy on carry bags has drastically changed how Namibians shop, moving towards more sustainable long-term carry bags. 

These are few examples of many that tackle the issues of plastic waste in the environment. Through these combined efforts, we can maintain the pristine environment we have today.

How can we expand on what is being done? This would be by creating avenues for more innovation or scaling up the initiatives already on the ground making a difference. Blended finance is one of the solutions that can be leveraged to mobilise private and public sector resources to address the key risk elements that are usually associated with projects or initiatives that focus on creating environmental and social impact. Transitioning to alternative material with the same versatility as single-use plastic will require innovation and investments that the private sector may only be able to support once scalability is realised. This is where public sector funding will be critical in creating the enabling environment to attract private sector funding to scale these projects or initiatives. To achieve true sustainability of these projects or initiatives, an economic element that speaks to the conditions on the ground is critical as this will incentivise private sector as there will be a return and society is being provided with affordable vital services.  

As a bank that focuses on creating sustainable value in its communities, Bank Windhoek will continue to advocate for the collective action of all to ensure that environmental, societal and the economic considerations are prioritised. Recognising this is key to creating a sustainable economy that meets our current and future needs. Through awareness, we can spark conversations that hopefully yield great ideas and connections for collaborations that will solve issues we have as a developing nation. Happy World Earth Day.


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