With global recognition increasing about the dangers of plastics waste pollution particularly on the world’s oceans, closer collaboration among role-players remains crucial to success in combating the rapidly expanding menace.
At least that was the dominant message flowing from this year’s observation of World Oceans Day in Durban at the weekend – a two day event hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in collaboration with several institutions including the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).
SAMSA is charged statutorily with responsibility for the monitoring and prevention of pollution by ships at sea all around South Africa, an area spawning more than 1.5-million square kilometres and over which the country has interest in as an exclusive economic zone.
In Durban over two days, from Friday and Saturday, several institutions across the public, private, higher education, research as well as community sectors gathered under one roof at a hall located at the harbour for an exhibition as well as a public awareness campaign focused on sharing information about the menace of plastics pollution.
The first day was almost exclusively dedicated to high school pupils in the Durban area while the following day was open to members of the public and for whom, another major attraction was country dedicated marine research vessel, the SA Agulhas II.
In addition to maritime careers information for the school pupils, both groups were taken through various information sharing sessions on the importance of the country’s marine resources as well as the absolutely crucial need to spare the environment of pollution, and of which plastic waste was the most dominant currently across the world.
They were also taken on a tour of the country’s dedicated sea research vessel, the SA Agulhas II ahead of its departure to the Antarctic region with supplies for the research stations there, as well as further studies by a group of marine scientists on board.
According to Ms Keshnee Pillay, a marine scientist in biological oceanography at the Department of Environmental Affairs, greater collaboration among all stakeholders and roleplayers engaged with the plastics waste pollution campaign, is crucial to future success.
In the following video, explains why the focus of this year’s World Ocean Day celebration had to be on plastics pollution particularly as it affected the oceans and other marine environment.
An ambitious global initiative to turn decisively the tide against massive volumes of plastics waste entering the world’s oceans around the African continent is formally taking shape in South Africa under the aegis of the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) based in Port Elizabeth.
The network was established in South Africa in 2016 with the support of government and high education institutions, and boasts no less than 42 member countries in the Africa region.
A year ago, it held its first African Marine Waste Conference in the country.
This year, boosted by new funding from the Norwegian government totaling just over a million rand a month ago, the AMWN has not only already established a scientific plastic waste academy launched in Port Elizabeth a week ago, but is also embarking on a three pronged strategy this month involving scientific research of plastic waste, the launch of a community outreach campaign involving both business and communities, as well establishment of an Africa Youth Network intended to engage particularly young people in an education campaign continent-wide against marine plastic waste and oceans pollution.
According to the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) a leading partner of the AMWN initiative based in Port Elizabeth, the youth network “will enable the youth of Africa to communicate and inspire one another and engage with young people everywhere as well as influence adults, especially leaders.”
The formal launch of the Africa Youth Network is scheduled for June 2018 to also mark World Oceans Day on 08 June.
This latter initiative will be preceded by a number of activities among which will be a ‘plastic industries’ workshop in Port Elizabeth on 10 May 2018. The aim according to SST in a statement, is to extract information that will be used to develop an Education Resource Book for sharing among among schools and similar education institutions throughout the African continent.
“Issues of plastics in the environment and human health are relatively new and have not yet entered education systems as they should have, so the need to build capacity in Africa is an imperative we aim to meet.
“There is no existing curriculum on plastics in African schools or governments. Thus we will be developing curricula and educational output in the form of an Education Resource Book. The Resource Book will be all encompassing of plastics, from A to Z, from raw materials to final product and after use processes. This will include the roles of producers, distributors, retailers, consumers and municipalities.
“We will develop the book in an all-inclusive manner, where we have planned workshops with the plastic industry and education and curriculum experts to help guide us. We shall host the initial workshops in May to promote sharing of ideas and collaboration between different organizations.
“The first will be on plastics industries, where our plan is to gather as much information as we can about the plastics industry. Thereafter we shall host a teacher’s workshop, inviting teachers and education stakeholders from across South Africa and Africa,” said the SST in a statement this past week.
The AMWN marine plastic waste initiative in the Nelson Mandela Bay region (Port Elizabeth) – a city settled to the east of South Africa on the southern part of the Indian Ocean and fast developing into a significant shipping services hub – will also involve the clean up of a major river estuary cutting across the city to the Indian Ocean.
The major plastic waste clean up campaign of the Swartkops River estuary is scheduled to start in Spring, from 15 September 2018.
The idea, according to AMWN, is to establish the region as a centre of excellence through ensuring that it is pristine clean of marine plastic waste in five years, thereby demonstrating the viability and importance of the Africa marine plastic waste reduction initiative.
“By 2021, we (the Nelson Mandela Bay region) can be the cleanest in Africa, the most active, best informed communities,” says the AWMN.
Meanwhile, the British government has heaped praise on both the initiative and the supportive roles played by both the Norwegian government as well as the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, the latter which has taken the lead in oceans studies inclusive of scientific research into environmental management of the oceans surrounding the southern tip of the African continent; the Indian Ocean to the east, the Southern Oceans to the Antarctica region as well as the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Speaking during the formal launch of the AMWN Academy in Port Elizabeth a week ago, British High Commissioner to South Africa, Dr John Wade-Smith said the combination of scientific research, community engagement and business opportunities development was a strategy that provided opportunity for all members of society to engage.
He had particular praise for the Nelson Mandela University for its involvement in the AMWN initiatives. He also shared insights into how Britain was contributing to the global campaign against plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans.
For Dr Wade-Smith’s full remarks, click on the video below.