In light of the recent UN Environmental Assembly’s resolution to address the global plastic challenge by establishing a voluntary international agreement by the end of 2024, the upcoming African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) conference presents an opportunity for Africa to show the world that it can independently yet collaboratively develop and implement long-term, sustainable solutions to help its countries solve their plastic waste challenges.
The conference, themed “Towards Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa”, is taking place in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, from May 23 to 27.
“As the second most polluted continent, it’s important for us to take proactive steps and find uniquely African solutions for our own challenges,” says Dr Tony Ribbink, founding trustee and current CEO of Sustainable Seas Trust and director of its African Marine Waste Network programme.
As a focused opportunity, the conference provides an accelerated mechanism for Africa to meet United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) goals, which, through the action plans, will further support countries in meeting the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In addition, representatives of UNEP will be in attendance to promote the Global Commitment, which has united more than 500 organisations behind a common vision of building a circular economy for plastics.
“Strategies that work in other parts of the world don’t necessarily apply to Africa,” Ribbink says.
Many previous plans provide high-level solutions but a clear, context-appropriate, and practical decision-making framework for the management of plastics, that is easily operationalised for different country contexts and cultures, will be one of the critical outcomes of the conference, with a Guide to the Development of National and Regional Action Plans intended for publication by October this year.
“Our collaboratively drafted decision-making framework recognises that all African countries are not the same and that, for example, investing in recycling plants may not make economic sense for some island states or smaller, landlocked countries.
“Our developing guidebook spells out the alternatives and actions that need to be taken at every step of the value chain.”
Ribbink says conference delegates will have the opportunity to examine specific chapters of the draft guidebook in detail, and contribute facts and proof-of-concept case studies from their region or country, as well as make corrections.
The guidebook will be made available to universities, non-governmental organisations, plastics industry stakeholders, and global entities such as the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank, and the European Union.