What Is The Project?

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Between July 25th and 26th, Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), Plastics SA, and other partners launched the African Marine Waste Network (AMWN) in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. The need for the Network was recognized some years back by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), as well as a number of government departments, universities, research institutions, NGOs, and concerned citizens. The decision to launch the Network was made in 2015 with a view to become the first dedicated approach to addressing marine waste at a Pan-African level.

Why is it Important?

Pollution of all kinds is a major global problem, causing 40% of premature human deaths globally, costing US$13.8 trillion annually, and influencing climate change on the planet. An exceedingly important part of the pollution problem is marine waste, which is the focus of the Network. All sorts of debris and solid waste enter the sea in ever increasing amounts every moment of every day. For example, about 270 kgs of plastic enter our seas every second—that is a little over 15 tonnes a minute, or 900 tonnes an hour. Most of this waste comes from the land, from which it is washed into rivers and estuaries and then carried to the sea, beaches, and rocky-shores. The remainder comes from ships and boats. If trends continue, by 2045 the flow of plastic into the sea will multiply to 600kgs per second, equaling to 36 tons a minute, or 2160 tons an hour. These figures are highly unsustainable and a threat to humans, animals, plants, and ecosystems alike. The extremity of the situation has become especially serious as plastic accumulates in the oceans. Estimates suggest that currently there are 150 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans, and by 2050 this number will rise to more than 700 million tonnes if trends continue, at which point the accumulation of plastics will outweigh all fish.

No one knows how much debris enters the sea from the African continent. We do know, however, that the rapid development of Africa, coupled with poverty, has seen waste accumulation outpace management. There are now fears among international organizations that Africa may soon become as badly polluted as Southeast Asia, which has the foulest record on the planet. One of the major aims of the Network, therefore, is to find out how serious these waste problems in Africa are, which areas are most affected, and how best to incorporate marine waste management solutions.

In his message to the 5th International Marine Debris Conference, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme Achim Steiner said:

“Marine debris – trash in our oceans – is a symptom of our throw-away society and our approach to how we use our natural resources. It affects every country and every ocean, and shows us in highly visible terms the urgency of shifting towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy… However, one community or one country acting in isolation will not be the answer. We need to address marine debris collectively across national boundaries and with the private sector, which has a critical role to play both in reducing the kinds of wastes that can end up in the world’s oceans, and through research into new materials. It is by bringing all these players together that we can truly make a difference.”

The purpose of developing African Marine Waste Network is to do precisely what Achim Steiner calls for— to develop an active network of people and organizations working together within countries and across borders in Africa. This is an African contribution to solving a global crisis.

Such an inclusive approach is essential at a time when we must all work together to improve our planet.
Our wish is that, regardless of where you live, you will join this initiative to help Africa play its role in ensuring that the children of our planet have a better tomorrow.

Get in Touch

If you wish to play a role in the Network, learn more, or attend events, you are welcome to contact us at info@sst.org.za.

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