Is there recycling in Benin?

February 8, 2016 – by Mélaine Sourou Awassi

Amina is a young girl whose parents are well-off, so she has everything she needs and wants. Her neighbour, Sofia, is the same age, but her parents don’t have the same lifestyle. Her parents are poor, but they do the best they can to put food on the table. One day, Amina throws away clothes she considers worn. Sofia finds them and picks them up, because she still considers them new. She washes them and wears them happily when she goes out.

Something that I no longer need and throw away, could be new and useful to someone else. Recycling and reuse are good ways to reduce waste.

Recycling in Benin

In Benin, where I’m from, we also recycle, but in our own way. It’s not like in developed countries, where there are established recycling systems that reduce waste and promote reuse, preserving people’s health and the environment. I wish we had such a system in Benin, but we have to be content with what we have, in the absence of the large financial resources required to establish such a system.

Recycling at home

In homes, reuse is a common method of recycling. For example, it’s more economical to reuse containers rather than buy new ones. Plastic mineral water bottles are frequently reused, for instance, to store water in the refrigerator, or to store palm or peanut oil in the kitchen.

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Small juice bottles or serum bottles from hospitals are reused for storage of spices in the kitchen.

Liquor bottles are reused to preserve appetizers for direct consumption.

Cans are reused to make toys or kitchen utensils such as this sieve below.

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Some NGOs reclaim plastic bags to make bags, wallets, and decorative objects.

The GOHOTO

Not everyone reuses containers. Some people sell them to the GOHOTO.

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The GOHOTO are women who pass from one district to another with a basket on their head, buying the reusable containers already mentioned above, among others that people might have at home.

In the Fon language, “GO” means “bottle” and “HOTO” means “someone who buys.” So GOHOTO is the name for the women who buy bottles. When they pass by, you can hear them shouting “GOHOTOOOO LOOO,” and if you have something to sell you can call them over.

They buy liquor bottles with a top for 100 FCFA each ($0.22 CAD), plastic mineral water bottles for 25 FCFA each ($0.06 CAD). They resell them to other women who, in turn, sell them in the market.

So that’s how we recycle in Benin. But I wonder about the possible health effects of reusing containers in this way. What do you think?

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