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Pilot project in Burnaby aims to teach immigrants how to recycle

Ann Kuajot crushes containers for the recyling bin in the parkade of her Burnaby apartment complex under the watchful eye of Paul Mtatiro, the co-ordinator of a program to teach new immigrants from Africa the ins and outs of proper recycling. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Ann Kuajot crushes containers for the recyling bin in the parkade of her Burnaby apartment complex under the watchful eye of Paul Mtatiro, the co-ordinator of a program to teach new immigrants from Africa the ins and outs of proper recycling.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

A pilot project hopes to teach African immigrants how to recycle in Burnaby, as a way to not only reduce waste headed to landfills but to promote integration into the community.

The project is being spearheaded by Climate Corps for Africa, a local and international volunteer organization run by Paul Mtatiro, himself an immigrant, originally from Tanzania.

It was while he was living in Birmingham, U.K. that he first created the program to reach out to fellow members of the African immigrant community to train them to recycle.

“Recycling is not part of the African culture,” Mtatiro said. “We don’t recycle there, we dump it into the landfill.”

While living in England, he saw that was still the case for immigrants in their adopted home.

“I don’t want to see my brethren come here, they’re given a home and cannot do what people do here. That is not right.”

So he established a successful program which he is replicating in the Lower Mainland, his current home.

Essentially, people in the community who can speak the immigrants’ languages are recruited and trained in how to recycle.

They then spread the word among those in their cultural communities. Metro Vancouver has assisted by producing materials so far in Arabic, a commonly spoken language in many parts of Africa.

In addition to translating materials, Metro Vancouver is working on educational materials that convey the message in graphics to be more easily understood despite language barriers, said Peter Cech of Metro Vancouver.

Ann Kuajok, a member of the South Sudanese Association, has been recruited to help train others, thanks to her ability to speak Arabic.

Even if materials are available in their language, many in the community don’t have the literacy skills to read it, which is why it’s important to have someone that can help explain it to them, she said.

Cech said the program has the potential to be rolled out in the rest of the Lower Mainland and to other immigrant communities.

“It’s a way to get into communities we would otherwise have a challenge getting into,” he said.

“They’re going in and saying, ‘This is the social norm.’ That’s a very powerful motivator for people to change their behaviour. It increases the likelihood of changing behaviour than just reading a brochure.”

For more information visit climatecorpsafrica.com.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

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