Waste management, pollution, inadequate access to sanitation services and urban migration are some of the major challenges to development in Tanzania.  Only 5% of household waste is regularly collected and hence, a significant proportion of waste ends up in the environment. Most waste is buried, burnt, or dumped in water ways, ultimately ending up on beaches or in the sea after heavy rain.  Solid waste from as far away as Indonesia and the Philippines also washes onto beaches via the south equatorial current. 

Plastic and other debris block drainage ditches and sewage systems, impair land productivity, endanger wildlife and lead to the proliferation of insects and pests that transmit diseases. 2015 saw the start of the worst cholera outbreak in Tanzania since 1978, when cholera was first identified in Tanzania. The outbreak was a result of poor sanitary facilities and a lack of safe drinking water, especially during the rainy season.

Sea Sense's waste management education programmes aim to drive attitude and behavioural changes towards solid waste and provide citizens with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement improved waste management practices. Sea Sense uses community theatre as a tool to raise awareness of the impacts of poor waste management.

School education programmes centre around the four R’s: refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle. In 2013, Sea Sense collaborated with Kitomondo Secondary School in Mafia Island to build Mafia’s first recycling hub. The pupils are recycling flip-flops, plastic bottles and plastic bags. 

Each year on World Clean Up Day, Sea Sense links with other stakeholders to organise a community beach clean-up event. Waste audits are conducted, which involves sorting, categorising and weighing the waste that is collected, to better understand the source, type and quantity of waste that is deposited onto beaches in Tanzania.  During World Clean Up Day 2021, Sea Sense and pupils from a local secondary school removed 2,288kg of solid waste from Tanzania’s most important nesting beach in Mafia Island.