No time to waste in addressing Africa’s marine waste. It’s definitely green economy conference season and last week’s (9-13 July 2017) inaugural African Marine Waste Conference hosted by Sustainable Seas Trust in Port Elizabeth did not disappoint. The conference featured keynote presenters such as renowned oceanographer, Sylvia Earle from Mission Blue / National Geographic, with a planned outcome of strategic guidelines on how to handle marine waste for an African context.
The conference organizers used the platform to identify opportunities and solutions for Africa. The emphasis was on,
- Accumulating waste in Africa: Influence of land based activities on the amount of marine waste.
- Harnessing economic and other opportunities: What are the biggest opportunities and challenges?
- Finding solutions, taking opportunities and developing “Best Practice for Africa”.
Waste is a human problem. There is no waste in nature – Sylvia Earle
The conference aimed to facilitate best practice for waste management while harnessing a circular economy approach. African nations can benefit from improved resource efficiency, job creation and economic development while helping safeguard its diverse and rich environment.
Dr. Jaisheila Rajput, CEO TOMA-Now presented our view on the need to consider harvested marine litter as a valuable resource. Unless this material is considered a viable feedstock, the problem will simply shift location. With a strong governmental, policy and industry focus, a platform was in place to address both challenges and opportunities. The discussion ranged around the need to establish a full scale recycled resource circular economy. Some key questions are listed.
Beyond recycling. What happens next?
- The potential exists to have a full scale recycled resource circular economy – but what is stopping us?
- What are the challenges and barriers that need to be overcome? Where does consumer activism fit in?
- What is the actual situation with our waste and how is this effectively being managed or unmanaged?
- Can marine plastic waste really be harvested as a viable input for industries, securing our marine resources while becoming an actual cost competitive commodity?
Developing a waste economy through a recycling value chain can have significant social, environmental and economic impacts. The recycling value chain can create significant opportunity for economic growth, reduced environmental footprint and a means of addressing consumer
concerns. Waste management and the use of our discarded resources has become a topic of increasing importance globally and in particular, in South Africa. The focus is on how these resources can effectively be used as raw material feedstock. TOMA-Now work with several industries on topics ranging from the development of viable waste economies to value chain development, for the purposes of guaranteed recycled feedstock supply. These are key building blocks towards building a circular economy in Africa.
The key takeaway from this conference: this is a (supported and) recognized journey that has begun.