Weed a fibrous substance can help mop up oil spills

Green Keeper Africa, a Benin startup founded in 2014, is trying to reduce the weed’s spread by ripping it out of waterwaysand using it to create a fibrous substance that can help mop up oil spills.

Weed a fibrous substance can help mop up oil spills

The invasive species, introduced to Africa from South America in the late 1800s, has wreaked havoc by clogging up lakes and waterways, destroying ecosystems and putting livelihoods at risk.

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Recent data on the plant’s economic impact is lacking but in Benin, an infestation during 1999 was found toreduce the annual income of 200,000 people by about $84 million.

That’s why Green Keeper Africa, a Benin startup founded in 2014, is trying to reduce the weed’s spread by ripping it out of waterwaysand using it to create a fibrous substance that can help mop up oil spills.

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The company has two main goals, says Geneviève Yehounme, its commercial director. “First, to take out the plant from the environment. And second, to provide an absorbent that could be used to control industrial pollution,” she tells CNN Business.

The startup sources its water hyacinth from Lake Nokoué, in the southeast of the country, where the plant “is a real nuisance to local communities,” says Yehounme.

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“People rely mostly on fishing, and that main activity is jeopardized because of water hyacinth,” she says. Thick mats of the weed impede access to fishing zones and block sunlight and oxygen from getting into the water, which depletes fish stocks.

Originally published at The union journal

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