The world’s oceans are drowning, but there is an economic opportunity to it: African Marine Waste Conference 2017

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Port Elizabeth: 10 July 2017

With more than 150 million tons of plastic material floating across the world’s oceans – and likely to rise to 950mt in 30 years – and with very little being done about it, the world is facing an imminent ecological disaster, scientists told delegates at a conference on marine waste currently underway in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

The African Marine Waste Conference 2017 began on Monday with about 200 delegates and will end Friday, with its main aim being to encourage development of concrete plans to turn the tide on plastic and related waste being dumped willy-nilly by nations bordering the continent’s coastline.

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Dr Linda Godfrey

Dr Linda Godfrey, a manager of the Waste RDI Roadmap Implementation Unit at the Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSRI) in South Africa, one of the early speakers on Monday, painted a disturbing picture of particularly the African continent with regards both its current status on waste management as well as imminent future challenges that could make the task of eliminating plastic waste more difficult if not arrested effectively, soon.

She said the continent was largely characterized by poor landfill practices, general poor waste management, uncontrolled dumping compounded by a rapidly growing population of middle income people who were increasingly migrating to predominantly coastal cities.

“Africa is at a watershed, in that if we do not stop and take action now, we are going to be faced with a massive marine waste problem locally, regionally and the potential impact globally. And there are essentially seven reasons that I see for why we should take action now,” she said. For Dr Godfrey’s full remarks (lasting about 4.30 minutes) Click Here.

For her full conference presentation in audio only, Click Here.

There is no such thing as waste. We know enough!

Dr Godfrey’s presentation correlated with that by United States scientist, Dr Sylvia Earle, a multi science awards winner and founder of Mission Blue as well as a National Geographic Explorer in Residence.

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Dr Sylvia Earle

Plastic waste was not necessarily disastrous and instead a great economic opportunity if it was managed effectively through recycling, said Dr Earle.

She said lack of knowledge about the effects of plastic waste dumping particularly in the oceans was no longer an excuse as its effects were now fully understood.

“Most of the oxygen that we breathe is generated by the oceans. Ocean creatures take up carbon dioxide, a carbon dioxide that is important for photosynthesis generating food.

“But too much of a good thing is not only harming the oceans, by making the oceans more acidic, by warming the planet. The carbon dioxide and other gasses such as methane are accelerating the warming of the earth, causing polar ice to melt, changing the climate, changing the weather, changing the one place in the universe that is our home, the only home that humankind – seven billion  of us – will ever have.”

She said the conference currently underway in Port Elizabeth was a good opportunity to not only share the knowledge at hand about the effects of plastic waste in the oceans but to also explore creative  solutions necessary to effectively manage waste.

For her full remarks (about 4 minutes), please Click Here.

Operation Phakisa (“Waste Economy” ) on the cards for South Africa!

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Dr Andre Share

Meanwhile, it emerged that South African authorities were not only looking at increasing plastic waste management practices soiling its own three oceans characterized by 3200km of a coastline and some 1.5-million square kilometers of an Exclusive Economic Zone but also it  intended taking full economic advantage of it.

Dr André Share, head of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) in the Department of Environmental Affairs revealed that an Operation Phakisa Waste Management initiative in the offing and would be rolled out soon.

“Very soon, we will have a Waste Phakisa, and there we will unpack not only what we are doing with the waste, but also looking at how we turn this waste into opportunities and look at the whole secular economy in respect of waste.”

Dr Share in an opening speech delivered on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, said the launch of the Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) initiative three years ago was incrementally showing positive returns in terms of investment in both ports infrastructure and related private sector investments in a whole range of projects across the country’s coastline.

“However, these developments, and indeed coastal development in general must be balanced with a need to ensure the health and integrity of our coastal and oceanic resources.

“Our oceans are under threat from pollution both from land based activities and sea based activities.

“The entire oceanic ecosystem is exposed to a wide range of pollution sources, such as illegal dumping practices, spillages from ships, waste disposal from port dredging operations to mining operations, and the discharge of sewage and storm water agricultural run-off and litter from land based sources.”

This he said, was despite the existence of stringent rules and regulations for all of the pollutants finding their way into the seas.

Dr Share said a sectoral approach was necessary to find a way to manage the waste streams and a “waste Phakisa” was on the cards to address the issue.

For his full remarks (about 4 minutes) Click Here.

We are here to learn: Indonesia government official

The Port Elizabeth 2017 conference has attracted attention from several countries across the world, with representations from both Africa, Oceana, the US as well as European countries including Norway.

Indonesia deputy Minister for the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Dr Satri Burhanuddin said his country delegation was attending the conference to learn about what solutions Africa might come up with that would be useful in his country for implementation.

“Africa is more like Indonesia. The middle class is growing and growing and so we actually face the same problem. So we want to learn also how Africa faces this problem.”

For Dr Burhanuddin’s remarks (about 2 minutes) Click Here

More coverage of the conference in next few days…

End.

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