Africa simply cannot carry on with its “business-as-usual” outlook towards development and waste management challenges.
According to Professor Linda Godfrey, principal scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, the continent’s approach to waste management needs urgent support and acceleration.
Fresh data released by WWF South Africa indicates that of the 19-million tonnes of plastic waste generated by Africa in one year, almost 90% was mismanaged.
With most landfills simply uncontrolled dumpsites, an average waste collection rate of just 55%, and a population set to double come 2050, the world’s second most polluted continent is in serious trouble if it does not implement urgent national and regional action plans to stop plastic from leaking into the environment.
“We have poor waste collection and disposal, increasing uncontrolled dumping, and open burning of waste. With expected rates of population growth, urbanisation, and a growing middle-class, we’re likely to see significant growth in waste generation, on the back of a broken system. All of this results in the leakage of waste and the resultant pollution of our land, water and air,” says Godfrey, who also helped author the CSIR and UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Africa Waste Management Outlook.
Godfrey is one of the principal speakers at the upcoming African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) “Towards Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa” conference, taking place in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, between May 23 and 27.
The five-day conference aims to draw all 54 continental and island states together to develop a guidebook with a comprehensive decision-making framework to assist countries, business and organisations to take the correct practical actions to curb plastic leaking into the environment based on their unique economic and geographic circumstances.
Godfrey says all role-players in the plastics value chain, local and national government, academics and other stakeholders have an important part to play in making sure these issues can be addressed.
“We need people to come together to solve these problems: Decision-makers who can practically implement solutions; researchers who are critical to providing evidence-based solutions; civil society groups who are at the coalface of addressing these issues in communities.
“We no longer have the luxury, or time, of just talking. Conferences such as this must be directed to finding practical, appropriate solutions for addressing waste, especially plastic waste, in Africa.”