Port Elizabeth: 01 November 2018
Seventeen years from now, Africa must be rid of the menace of plastic waste infesting particularly the oceans surrounding it, that is the ambitious target the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) is setting itself in the global war against plastic waste.
That is according to its lead member, the Port Elizabeth based non governmental organization, Sustainable Seas Trust, which this week launched an initiative called the Africa Youth Waste Network to rope in the continent’s youth in the battle against mounting plastic pollution all across Africa.
The youth initiative is part of a broader campaign by the SST and AYWN that is financially backed by the Norwegian government and which has already seen the establishment of an African Marine Waste Academy in Nelson Mandela Bay earlier this year.
Norwegian Minister of Research and Higher Education, Ms Isebin Nybo together with South Africa’s Minister of Tourism and acting Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mr Derek Hanekom were among high profile guests in Nelson Mandela Bay on Monday for the launch of the youth initiative.
Other guests included local government officials as well as academics from both the Nelson Mandela University as well as Norway’s University of Bergen.
Some scholarly ongoing research findings shared at the event depicted a dire picture of the highly negative impacts of plastic waste, particularly that which enters the African continent’s oceans.
Among the findings was that not only was plastic waste reaching the oceans now at unsustainable levels, but also that certain fish species were already feeding on it and in the process, posing a real and immediate high risk to both human and other creatures lives that feed on fish.
According to (SST) CEO, Dr Anthony Ribbink, time for talking about the pending disaster was over and target dates had to be set for defined action to show results, hence the group has set 2035 as the year on which Africa will be rid of plastic waste and resultant pollution.
Central to the strategy for cleaning up and eventually eliminating plastic waste will be the engagement of particularly youth across the continent through the newly set up network, combining it with ongoing academic research, but also a development of economic opportunities to both manage and get rid of plastic waste.
Key role players will include municipalities across towns and cities of the continent.
According to Dr Ribbink, the first target African city for the major clean up campaign will be Nelson Mandela Bay whose deadline for reaching a zero plastic waste status has been set even more tighter, as 2021.
“We want to make sure that Nelson Mandela Bay becomes the first city in Africa to reach zero plastic waste by 2021 and the local municipal government has committed to the target.”
He also announced that the African Marine Waste Network with 42 members countries across the continent will hold its second conference in April 2020 and during which concrete plans for the rest of the continent will be shared.
In the video below, Dr Ribbink explains the thinking.
Meanwhile, Ms Alexie Kalenga, coordinator of the AYWN explained the rationale behind the active engagement of especially young people in the Africa war against plastic waste.
She said recent population statistics indicated two critical aspects about Africa’s population: that young people aged between 16 and 25 years hold (225-million as at 2015) constituted about 60% of the continent’s population and about 19% of the world’s population and were therefore the largest majority by far.
But crucially, this figure was projected to almost double to 456-million by 2055, thereby reflecting a rapidly growing population, with huge implications for waste generation and management as, she said, waste accumulation had been proved to be a function of population size.
She said the network was intended to be an active platform for collaboration, resource and knowledge sharing among young people across countries.
“It’s a youth driven initiative that aims at zero pollution and clean seas by 2035.
In the video below, Ms Kalenga shares more detail.