When People Think They do Good

According to a 2013 study conducted by the German Society for International Cooperation, Morocco only collects 70 percent of its solid waste, and according to the World Bank, it disposes less than 10 percent of its waste adequately. However, Morocco presents itself as a country with ambitious goals for environmental protection. The country has put a ban on plastic bags, which will come into effect in July this year.

When I was in Morocco in March, I was overwhelmed by the culture, by the different smells that you would encounter at night when you strolled through one of the many markets who seemed to always be open, by the traffic, the noises. I came to love the messiness of it all and appreciated (at times hated) getting lost in the Medinas. What astonished me most was my trip to the desert. We rode on camels, ate with a nomad family and slept in a tent beneath a heaven full of stars. We were a tourist group of 4 and as the only girl in the club I had the honor of riding the camel in the very front. This gave me the opportunity to bond with our camel guy, who guided his camels
through the desert with very cute sandals. He couldn’t speak any English, so we couldn’t really talk but would smile at each other at times.

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Suddenly he started to collect plastic (mainly plastic bottles and trash bags), and tucked them into his traditional Moroccan Djellaba. Being impressed by him taking responsibility for our environment I smiled at him even more, which encouraged him to collect more trash. He communicated to me that the trash was caused by the locals, not by the tourists. And then we stopped, he grabbed some sort of dry bushes, lit it on fire and put the plastic onto it. My mood went from being full of hope to being confused. I was mad, but not at him. I mean how could he know, he probably didn’t know or thought it is at least better to burn the plastic. He thought he did good, his intentions were good, but he did more harm to the environment instead. I am writing this story not to judge, but simply to illustrate reality.

My encounter with plastic in the Moroccan desert.

Henriette Reinhardt