Combatting Marine Waste

Waste is a trans-boundary issue that requires collaboration on a regional, national, continental, and even global scale.  Africa is the second-worst polluted continent on the planet and the rate of deterioration is accelerating. The negative impacts on human health, economies, environments, tourism, productivity and prosperity are becoming increasingly prevalent. The accumulation of waste on land and poorly managed landfill sites has led to increasing amounts of leakage into rivers, estuaries and seas, with major impacts on the health of the marine environment and tourism.  In addition, waste from ships and other marine sources also accumulates along African coasts.

Plastics have become the ubiquitous workhorse material of the modern economy. And yet, while delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. Significant economic value is lost after each use, and given the projected growth in consumption, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production and 15% of the annual carbon budget. How can we turn the challenges of our current plastics economy into a global opportunity for innovation and value capture, resulting in stronger economies and better environmental outcomes?

If we can reduce the waste that enters the sea from land, by tracing it back to source and stopping it there, then we have solved 80-90% of the problem. Perhaps the route forward is getting on top of all aspects of waste management as readily apparent in affluent residential areas (which have the European and American examples to follow), in the business sector, in municipalities, in schools and universities etc. These issues simply need resources, including appropriate skills, and a little time to achieve goals. Affluent societies are not really dependent on financial incentives.  In Africa, the greatest need lies in the impoverished areas (settlements). Residents of these areas are unable to afford the luxury of cleaning the environment without a positive sustainable return. Viable economic enterprises, coupled with education, training, capital investment and appropriate mentoring is required. It is true that unless the actions are profitable they will not succeed. Consequently, entrepreneurship, innovation and new business development – based on sound data from scientific research – must be part of the actions going forward!

Dealing With Marine Waste - SW 2017

International Organizations

UNEP: UN declares war on ocean plastics

UNEP: Marine Litter; Vital Graphics

UN: United Nations Development Program – Sustainable Development Goals

UN: Global Opportunity Report 2017 – 15 Opportunities for 5 Risks

UNESCO: Global Ocean Science Report – The Current Status of Ocean Science around the World (UNESCO)

OECD: OECD The Ocean Economy in 2030

WEF: The New Plastics Economy – Catalysing Action (World Economic Forum)

EIA: Lost at Sea: The urgent need to tackle marine litter

National Governments

Norway: Panorama – Norwegian government strategy for cooperation on higher education and research with Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia and South Africa (2016–2020)

Norway: Roadmap for bilateral research cooperation with South Africa (RCN)

Norway: NOK 150 million for development programme to combat plastic and other marine litter

Norway: New Growth, Proud History – Norwegian Government Ocean Strategy

Norway: The place of the oceans in Norway’s foreign development policy – Norwegian Government White Paper

RSA: Operation Phakisa – Oceans Economy Lab: Unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans

RSA: Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap for South Africa

RSA: South Africa`s Water Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) Roadmap: 2015-2025

RSA: A Research, Innovation and Knowledge Management Road Map for the South African Maritime Sector – Charting a Course to Maritime Excellence by 2030

African Marine Waste Network

The African Marine Waste Network – Serving the oceans and people of Africa through our network

AMWC17 presentations for download

South Africa – Norway Science Week

Team Norway

SANCOOP: South Africa - Norway Research Co-operation on Climate Change, the Environment and Clean Energy (SANCOOP)

SW2017 presentations for download

Articles and Research Papers

Elsevier: Challenges and emerging solutions to the land-based plastic waste issue in Africa