According to Cameroon’s Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, about 600,000 tons of plastic waste are generated in Cameroon every year. Most of these end up in the environment and if present trends continue, by 2050, plastic in oceans will weigh more than fish. Again, Cameroon spends over US$ 190 million on the importation of plastics annually (UN COMTRADE, 2018). Cognizant of this, Ecological Balance Cameroon launched a project for the production of sustainable packaging material in Cameroon in 2022.
With funding from the New England Biolabs Foundation (NEBF), the organization trained 12 youths in Buea, South West Region of Cameroon on how to use paper to produce packaging material, from August 30 to September 10, 2022. The intensive hands-on training saw the designing and production of over 14 different types of products including packaging for cosmetics, food, different shape & sizes of gift bags, gift boxes etc. The trainees were then encouraged to pull resources together and set up small businesses.
Few months after this training, four of the trainees launched two sustainable packaging businesses in Buea. These businesses include Advocate Packaging Ltd and Silver Lining Bags Inc. Arrey Esther and two other trainees co-founded Advocate Packaging Ltd. “We were inspired by the need to improve the ecosystem and increase our earnings to start this enterprise. ‘We do the work ourselves with the help of friends and family because we do not have the resources to employ labour force yet,” said Madam Arrey Esther, Co-Founder and CEO of Advocate Packaging Ltd.
The Managing Director of Silver Lining Bags Inc. Mrs. Ngale, disclosed that the packaging sector in Cameroon has great potential. “The packaging industry in Cameroon has great potential but great work also has to be done. We are ready and willing to employ young people but are careful to get the right people. We need to do a lot in the area of marketing also,” she noted. Both business executives indicated that competition with cheaper plastic packaging material is still a challenge. According to them, the majority of the people are either not aware that plastics are bad for the environment or do not care.
By Limbi Blessing