Edith Kouassi. Environmental entrepreneur

Faith, courage and responsibility. These are the principles on which the “Queen of Plastic Waste” or Amazon is basing her fight against plastic pollution in Côte d’Ivoire.

A quick look at her social networks – full of photos contrasting the richness of the flora and fauna with the waste produced by man and factories, the promotion of awareness days and debates, and the numerous awards she has received – will give you an idea of the work of this eco-militant.

The battle she officially launched in 2020 with the creation of Ecoplast Innov has a war cry: Zero waste in nature. Technology at the service of the environment is the formula that has materialised with the creation of the mobile application CITIZED, which won the Orange Prize for Social Action in Africa and the Middle East in 2021. This is the first application created in Côte d’Ivoire in the field of renewable energy for households and factories to monitor the treatment process, from the waste they collect to the final product, which is included in a catalogue and can be purchased through the programme itself.

“We have transformed plastic waste into cobblestones, ecological slabs and made rubber agglomeration blocks from wheeled rubber, used for the construction and coating of floors, “she explained in an interview a few months ago.

She also pointed out that in three years’ time, they should be able to process 6,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year and produce around 5,000 tonnes of finished products. This ambition transcends national and even regional boundaries. “At first, it was not easy to promote this system of collecting and sorting waste, but now the population understands it and is integrated it into the project”, she added.

It has seven employees and about twenty volunteers who visit the beaches every 15 days and organise the collection of household waste. “We have focal points in some localities and also work with waste producers who provide us with the raw material. The system works because the profits from recycling subsidise the purchase of toilets, and because the work of sorting and selecting the waste is done by women, who are also part of the project’s decision-making team, contributing to their economic and social autonomy. In 2024, we expect to reach 9,000 people, i.e., 4,000 direct and 5,000 indirect beneficiaries of the project,” said Kouassi, who has since become a consultant and manager of sustainable development projects.

During her first year of university, while studying geography, she became aware of the threat plastic pollution posed to the environment and communities, which she went on to study for a Masters in Environment and Waste Management. This work positioned her as one of the 100 African entrepreneurs at the Africa-France meeting in 2020 and, a year later, allowed her to receive the Alassane Ouattara Young Entrepreneur Award.

Carla Fibla García-Sala – Illustration Tina Ramos Ekongo