Abraham L. B. Freeman and D. Baccus Roberts are two Liberians environmental advocates who are using their God giving talent to benefit their communities in Liberia.
The two men, who in 2019 started the production of bricks from recycling plastics waste in the Jamaica Road community, have now transitioned to the production of rain coats, bags and other materials from discarded water sachets.
Freeman and Roberts diverted from the production of bricks temporarily due to the lack of finance to purchase machines that are required for production.
They said using fire to light the plastic was not environmental friendly and is very dangerous for those that were in such venture.
Speaking in an interview recently, Abraham L. B. Freeman said he and his colleague are now involved in converting plastics waste into rain coats, bags and other materials for school going children and community people.
Mr. Freeman, who is a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Global Health Equity from the George Washington University as zero waste Ambassador for community leaders in Africa, said their new approach is less intense and more civil than burning plastics.
The youthful Liberian said the new invention came about due to the collaboration they had with students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reflecting on ways that plastic can be used on resource deprived setting like Liberia.
He said in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they realized that there are many solutions they could derive at but the production of bags and rain coats from waste is their first immediate and short term initiative, starting with Raymond Camp in Mount Coffee, Harrisburg Township.
Mr. Freeman said the project is sponsored for now by him and his colleague D. Baccus Roberts by using portion of their monthly income, though not enough, to work with tailors within the community to fabricate the plastics into rain coats and bags.
He said they use the produced items to create awareness and at the same time tell community people that they can reuse their plastic for better reason.
According to the young environmental advocate, plastic waste is a serious issue and a concern raised by the United Nations and other organizations for which they (Freeman and Roberts) have decided using their personal resources to work with communities in Liberia.
In working with communities, the two men thought that Mount Coffee is very ideal because of the hydro power plant, which is a half billion investment constructed by international partners to help Liberia solve electrical problems.
“Due to the construction of the hydro, people from every part of Liberia came to seek job and this cause the community to grow beyond its actual size, which could not be handled by leaders, so everything became problem including waste management.”
He added that because of the proximity of Mount Coffee to Monrovia, lots of the goods that were brought here contain plastic, water sac and everything.
“Mind you, once we don’t have proper waste management system put in place, plastic bags will be thrown into the water, enter the turbine that will get it damage.”
He also said because of the importance of Mount Coffee to the country, they have decided to engage community leaders, dwellers, and marketers by informing them about the danger plastic poses to the environment, hydro, their health, the water quality and the agricultural processes.
“The community decided that we build giant melted boxes where they put in plastics. Every Saturday we organize the young people both male and female who volunteer to pick the plastics, carry it to a material recovery facility. At the facility, we wash the plastics and send them to the tailor where it is recycled into bags and rain coats and later distribute them to school going kids and sell to interested people.”
He said depending on the number of plastics that will enter the water, the community has grown and so it could somehow affect the turbine in the power house and could be a national disaster as it was done with other institutions in the country.
He said if Liberians don’t take care by managing their waste, thus creating a disaster and urged the community people to play their part in reducing the plastics from the community.
According to Freeman, people of Raymond Camp community have welcomed the idea and that the young people are the driving force behind what they do in the community.
Mr. Freeman said the young people come together every Saturday with or without food, bringing their own tools from their various houses to work on the plastic bags because there is no support from outside toward what they are involved with.
“With the zeal and everything, I keep encouraging the young people because volunteerism builds a community, until we get somebody to come and buttress what we are doing, we ourselves need to use what we have in our possession to make the change we want in our community with or without someone coming to help, so the youths understand and they are the driving force behind this action.”
He said once they have the support of people buying their idea, they will love to hire a tailor in order to teach vulnerable female or single parents (mothers and fathers) to learn how to sew or to produce the waste plastics out of rain coats and bags.
He said they intend to purchase sewing machines in order to set up a place that will be used as their production site.
“It is a process of training people especially women and so we are actually soliciting support like sewing machines and other things that will enable the female sew.”
Mr. Freeman is asking every citizen of Liberia including the government, international NGOs and non for profit organizations to help them sustain what they are doing for the Raymond Camp, Harrisburg Township.
He said they want to reach other communities, townships, districts and counties but in order to do so, they will need assistance from well-meaning Liberians, organizations and other nationals.
“This is a pilot project and we chose Raymond Camp in the Harrisburg Township because it is hosting the hydro. So, when this work in Raymond Camp, we will spread out in other communities.”
The youthful Liberian environmental advocate is asking every youth in Liberia to use their time to volunteer in their communities to help Liberia.
He stressed that aid has never helped any country develop as well as politics and is asking well-meaning Liberians and politicians to depoliticize Liberians especially the youths and make Liberians to think innovatively and have competition that enables youths to start thinking outside the box and start to do things that will help develop the communities and the country at large.
For his part, Frank D. Goodlin, an elder of Raymond Camp, hailed the idea of the two Liberian environmental advocates for bringing total change to their community.
Mr. Goodlin said their community was affected by a huge pile of plastics due the rehabilitation of the hydro which took lots of people to Raymond Camp that hosts the Mount Coffee hydro plant.
He said many people went there in search for job and to do business and if not careful, the plastics could damage the turbine and help to deplete the soil.
He said the idea is new to the community but community dwellers especially the young people are happily working to make the change needed.
Mr. Goodlin also joined Freeman and Roberts to call on the government most especially the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to help provide funding towards what the young people are doing because the facility in Mount Coffee is important to the LEC.