Sustainable transitions to end plastic pollution: co-developing arts-based sensitisation tools in Kenya and Bangladesh

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


70-80% of ocean plastic pollution originates from land-based sources and enters the ocean via rivers and coastlines. Cities in the global south are severely and disproportionately affected by land-based pollution; formal waste management infrastructure is lacking and local environments become choked with accumulated plastic, which often extends across vast areas. To ensure feasibility and sustainability of interventions, community voices need to be included in efforts to end plastic pollution.

This project aimed to identify opportunities to tackle the problem of urban plastic pollution from the community perspective, focusing on two case study sites - the informal settlement Mukuru, Nairobi, Kenya and Sylhet City, Bangladesh. The project directly targets United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and 12 (Responsible consumption and production). We used arts-based participatory approaches, collaborating with a range of stakeholders, including community activists, artists, musicians, and academia, integrating local knowledge, social capital, science and the arts.

Creative methodologies have been used in the global south as effective means of sensitising communities facing challenges around health epidemics and negative social behaviours. The methods employed in this project extended proven interventions in the community and built upon local knowledge, expertise and creativity. The following are the creative methodologies used which were created by the community for the community and had demonstrable reach and impact.

Murals - The use of murals for public messaging is a well established practice in Mukuru. The Mukuru mural was sited in a prominent public space and is estimated to have been viewed by 150,000 people, transmitting information directly to the community in an inclusive way that did not require prior or specialist knowledge.

Music - Traditional folk song structure (Bangladesh) and popular music genres (Kenya) were utilised to ensure cultural acceptability. Video provided additional opportunities to relay messaging using strong visuals, and were shared using familiar platforms such as YouTube and other social media outlets. Videos have received in excess of 11,000 views to date.

Street Theatre - This project staged performances in Mukuru and Sylhet to raise awareness and stimulate debate. Both performances featured a Plastic Monster made from plastic waste, and invited audiences to consider their contributions to the existence of the monster, and the consequences of environmental pollution. Audience numbers were in excess of 500.

Outputs were designed to reach large audiences and engage a wide range of community members, being suitable for mixed age groups and literacy levels. Delivered by trusted community voices, the use of creative methods such as these engages communities in both novel and familiar ways, and the participatory process of co-creation brings a sense of authenticity, empowerment, ownership and buy-in.

This in-person presentation will showcase the sensitisation tools, discuss methods and the process of collaboration, and explore how these methods could be replicated in other settings.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2022
EventThe 7th International Marine Debris Conference - Busan, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 18 Sept 202223 Sept 2022


ConferenceThe 7th International Marine Debris Conference
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Sustainable transitions to end plastic pollution: co-developing arts-based sensitisation tools in Kenya and Bangladesh'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this