The kinds of solutions developed to combat plastic waste in other parts of the world don’t necessarily apply to Africa.
This is the view of Dr Tony Ribbink, founding trustee of the Sustainable Seas Trust and current CEO and director of the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN).
He says many previous attempts to formulate a response to the plastic waste problem had been superficial or theoretical at best, and lacking in concrete action plans and practical steps.
What was needed was a clear, context-appropriate, and practical decision-making framework for the management of plastics that is easily operationalised for the different country contexts and cultures in Africa.
“Africa consumes less plastic per capita than the rest of the world, but a rapidly increasing population, coupled with poor product design, limited collection and recycling infrastructure, and a lack of education on and awareness of complex plastic issues, has resulted in a waste management problem,” Ribbink says.
The SST, through the AMWN, is tackling the continent’s plastic waste crisis head-on.
The AMWN’s pan-African “Towards Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa” conference, being held in Nelson Mandela Bay between May 23 and 27), will bring together top decision-makers across the plastics value chain and public and private sectors to formulate concrete action plans for Africa’s 54 continental and island states.
The conference has been structured to specifically focus on the interventions that need to happen at every step of the plastic value chain, including production and consumption, collection and sorting, recycling and disposal, the mismanagement of waste, and what roles municipalities are expected to fulfil.
“Our collaboratively-developed 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 guidebook spells out the alternatives and actions that need to be taken at every step of the value chain and will help countries craft their approach to best suit their own circumstances.”
The Guide to the Development of National and Regional Action Plans is intended for publication by October this year.
“Conference delegates will have the opportunity to examine specific chapters of the draft guidebook and contribute facts, make corrections and contribute proof-of-concept case studies from their region or country,” Ribbink says.
“The time for talking is past.”