Photos: A Senegal restaurateur’s lonely fight against the plastic tide

Dakar, Senegal's capital, is asphyxiated by pollution and waste products. Having grown up in the city, Babacar Thiaw, a management professional by training, was perturbed by what had become of the beaches where he played as a child, their sandy shores replaced with layers of plastic snagging visitors at each step. HE found is means to make a difference with ‘The Copacabana’, a restaurant started by his father decades ago, as a way to sow the seeds of a plastic free life and a platform to show how sustainable living needn’t disrupt normal life.

Updated On Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST 9 Photos
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Copacabana restaurant owner Babacar Thiaw holds bamboo straws at the restaurant on the Yoff Virage beach in Dakar, Senagal. Babacar Thiaw took the initiative of opening Dakar’s first “zero plastic” restaurant in a response to the rubbish strewn along the beaches of the Senegalese capital. (Seyllou / AFP)

Copacabana restaurant owner Babacar Thiaw holds bamboo straws at the restaurant on the Yoff Virage beach in Dakar, Senagal. Babacar Thiaw took the initiative of opening Dakar’s first “zero plastic” restaurant in a response to the rubbish strewn along the beaches of the Senegalese capital. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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A man walks next to waste products on Yoff Virage beach, facing the Copacabana restaurant. Thiaw’s concerns were stirred a decade ago while surfing Atlantic waves on Yoff beach alongside dozens of plastic bottles. “On this beach, you can’t put a foot in the water without snagging a plastic bag,” he complains. (Seyllou / AFP)

A man walks next to waste products on Yoff Virage beach, facing the Copacabana restaurant. Thiaw’s concerns were stirred a decade ago while surfing Atlantic waves on Yoff beach alongside dozens of plastic bottles. “On this beach, you can’t put a foot in the water without snagging a plastic bag,” he complains. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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Thiaw sits next to a sign aimed at raising recycling awareness among customers. He felt powerless to act when he saw beaches where he played as a child turned into open waste heaps. His chance to take on the tide of trash came in 2016, when he took charge of this unpretentious little restaurant his father had opened on Le Virage beach in the 1970s. (Seyllou / AFP)

Thiaw sits next to a sign aimed at raising recycling awareness among customers. He felt powerless to act when he saw beaches where he played as a child turned into open waste heaps. His chance to take on the tide of trash came in 2016, when he took charge of this unpretentious little restaurant his father had opened on Le Virage beach in the 1970s. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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Bamboo straws stored in a jar on a table at the Copacabana restaurant on Yoff Virage beach in Dakar. Today, carafes have replaced single-use plastic bottles and straws are made of bamboo or metal. Paper napkins have gone in favour of locally produced cloth doilies. White vinegar has pride of place for cleaning instead of chemical products. (Seyllou / AFP)

Bamboo straws stored in a jar on a table at the Copacabana restaurant on Yoff Virage beach in Dakar. Today, carafes have replaced single-use plastic bottles and straws are made of bamboo or metal. Paper napkins have gone in favour of locally produced cloth doilies. White vinegar has pride of place for cleaning instead of chemical products. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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A customer sits on a couch in front of a glass with a metallic straw at the in Copacabana restaurant. President Macky Sall, sworn in for his second term in April, has proposed turning Senegal into a “zero waste” nation. Untreated effluent goes straight into the ocean and plastic debris is a chronic problem, often covering shorelines as far as the eye can see. (Seyllou / AFP)

A customer sits on a couch in front of a glass with a metallic straw at the in Copacabana restaurant. President Macky Sall, sworn in for his second term in April, has proposed turning Senegal into a “zero waste” nation. Untreated effluent goes straight into the ocean and plastic debris is a chronic problem, often covering shorelines as far as the eye can see. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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Recycling bins of different colours hang on a wall to raise awareness among customers at the Copacabana restaurant. On Yoff beach, dozens of children play amid the waste floating on the surf. (Seyllou / AFP)

Recycling bins of different colours hang on a wall to raise awareness among customers at the Copacabana restaurant. On Yoff beach, dozens of children play amid the waste floating on the surf. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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A man sits on a couch by a bottle with a collected capsule laying on a table at the Copacabana restaurant. “Every action counts,” Thiaw said. “When you know that a plastic bottle takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, how can you not use glass bottles? (Seyllou / AFP)

A man sits on a couch by a bottle with a collected capsule laying on a table at the Copacabana restaurant. “Every action counts,” Thiaw said. “When you know that a plastic bottle takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, how can you not use glass bottles? (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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A woman reads a sensitisation sign calling people to recycle plastic. “The kids don’t understand -- they play with the rubbish just like balls,” said Mami Ndiaye, a regular customer at the Copacabana. (Seyllou / AFP)

A woman reads a sensitisation sign calling people to recycle plastic. “The kids don’t understand -- they play with the rubbish just like balls,” said Mami Ndiaye, a regular customer at the Copacabana. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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People walk on Yoff Virage beach, facing the Copacabana restaurant. Thiaw also regularly organises teams to clean up rubbish, but there is not one sorting centre for household waste in all of Senegal. (Seyllou / AFP)

People walk on Yoff Virage beach, facing the Copacabana restaurant. Thiaw also regularly organises teams to clean up rubbish, but there is not one sorting centre for household waste in all of Senegal. (Seyllou / AFP)

Updated on Sep 09, 2019 01:59 PM IST
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