The oceans have become the world’s biggest rubbish dump – and Africa’s coastlines are under siege. It is now the world’s second most polluted continent.
Microplastics, chemical and agricultural runoff, oil, sewage and solid waste are contributing to the polluting of much of the continent’s natural resources warns the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN).
But numerous countries are now putting their data and resources together in a bid to face the looming crisis head-on – looking at innovative solutions for African circumstances and cultures.
The inaugural African Marine Waste Conference held in Port Elizabeth last month (9 – 13 July) saw about 200 delegates from 9 African states and a further 10 countries from other continents come together to thrash out the challenges and possible solutions to this ever-growing global problem.
Scientists, educators, government and policy makers, and members of industry also examined how to turn the problem into a positive situation.
As African economies grow so does the accumulation of waste. And waste management is not keeping up with rising consumption. The good news however is that, when properly managed, waste has value: it can create jobs, open doors to education, encourage public participation and promote tourism.
PETCO (the PET plastic recycling company) believes the African Marine Waste Network has great potential to bring together key stakeholders across the continent – from government to the private sector, from academia to brand owners, from retailers to consumers – to jointly develop and implement plans to address the challenges presented by waste in the marine environment.
Plastic pollution one of the planet’s biggest challenges
Says PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz, “We view the Network – the first of its kind to focus on the prevention and mitigation of marine pollution in Africa – as a game-changer. Plastic and other pollution is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the planet. The accumulation of plastic waste and other debris on land and its leakage into the sea is a growing, costly problem. We can and must work together to solve this crisis.”
Alongside partnering with The Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) to establish the communications hub for the AMWN, PETCO supported the Conference by presenting on both the importance of data in strategic decision-making and the role of consumers in moving to a circular economy (where resources are in use for as long as possible then regenerated into products and materials at the end of each service life).
Major outputs of the conference include the continued development and expansion of the AMWN to include all stakeholders, and the document entitled Strategy for Marine Waste: Guide to Action for Africa.
This detailed document provides the foundation for the Network’s next steps, which include growing the resource base to support the Network throughout the coastal and island states of Africa, building up a strong internal team to meet Network requirements, and growing a resource base of information, interactive maps and educational toolkits.
Education crucial in changing behaviour
Education is crucial. Said speaker, renowned oceanographer and National Geographic Society explorer, Sylvia Earle, in her keynote address for the African Marine Waste Conference:
“The biggest thing any country, nation or school can do is to include, from the very beginning, the awareness of why nature matters and how we as individuals, communities and people around the world have to come together to take care of the natural world.”
Concludes Scholtz, “Creating a sustainable future requires fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviour, with each stakeholder group – from government and industry, to society as a whole – taking responsibility for their specific role in transitioning to a circular economy. This is the future PETCO is working to create.”
The conference is set to meet every two years with the next one planned for mid-2019.
- See more disturbing ocean pollution photography here.
- To find out more about the AMWN click here.
- Contribute to Strategy for Marine Waste: Guide to Action for Africa via email here.