Social media has again proved to be a powerful tool in Tunisia, where a group of people started a Facebook page that turns the ubiquitous ‘selfie’ into an opportunity to express disgust with the country’s stinking trash problem.
Everywhere you go in this otherwise beautiful Mediterranean country, and I really do mean just about anywhere, you are bound to come across big piles of trash. In the cities, on train tracks, on the middle of a street, on the beach.
After a while the sight of so much plastic, paper, cans, glass, jars, luggage, furniture, clothing and other waste in overflowing trash cans or informal dump sites becomes so distressing, it’s hard not to push it out of one’s mind. This is my experience, at least.
SelfiPoubella, which joined Facebook on May 16, 2014, less than 10 days ago at time of writing, aims to keep people from ignoring the problem.
The group encourages residents to take a selfie of themselves standing in front of a big trash heap somewhere in the country and then share it on Facebook and Twitter. By using the hashtags #SelfiePoubella (which means Trash Selfie) and the name of the city, town or village in which the photograph was taken, the photos are easy to search.
Amazingly, the SelfiPoubella page already has nearly 12,000 likes and dozens of people are posting images of themselves – boldly exposing themselves for a cause they believe will effect change.
“Show the true face of our streets and the pollution of the environment,” the group urges on their Facebook page.
Tunisia is making moves to address the trash problem, which is no easy feat. In order to improve waste management, its necessary to have recycling services and a market for recycled goods, along with sophisticated methods of collecting, sorting and distributing waste to extract its remaining value.
In the MENA region, the trash problem is by no means limited to Tunisia. I have first hand experience of trash seeping into every facet of life in Morocco and Egypt, and Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey all battle with waste management as well.
The wealthier Gulf countries have a somewhat better system for sorting waste after dedicating a great deal of time and resources to the problem, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen litter in far-flung spaces outside of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s west coast.
The MENA region produces on average 1.1 kilogram of waste per person per day, according to the World Bank, and collectively contributes six percent to the global trash production of 1.3 billion tons every year.
By 2025, that number will reach 2.2 billion tons. That is 2.2 billion tons of trash that has become, because of the addition of synthetic materials designed to make stuff last, more or less incompatible with the Earth from whence it came.
We’re drowning in trash. Our oceans are suffering. Camels are suffering. Birds and other wildlife are suffering. And people are suffering too. So if you live in Tunisia and want to help make the trash issue more tangible, take a selfie, and then share it with the world.
All images via SelfiPoubella