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The AFRICAN MARINE WASTE NETWORK programme launched!

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On Monday and Tuesday, Sustainable Seas Trust launched the African Marine Waste Network at Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. It was an auspicious occasion that was well-attended by national and provincial government departments, municipalities, a broad spectrum of business organizations, several universities and NGOs, representatives from aquaria, cubs and societies, all with a keen interest in meeting the pollution challenges that have been precipitated by people. More than 80% of pollution originates on land, before leaking into the estuaries and seas, so a big focus of discussions was on how we can better manage pollution in our homes, schools, factories, municipalities and harbours. Attention was also given to pollution and waste from ships, boats and oil rigs. 

The workshop on Monday, attended by 80 delegates, had two specific objectives: to obtain expert recommendations on how best the network could bring people of the 38 coastal and island states of Africa together in a concerted movement to reduce waste and other forms of pollution around Africa, and the second aspect was what should be in the strategy, a guide book, on the types of actions, policies and procedures that are need to transform behaviour of people from all walks of life. Leaders in policy, in education, in networking and management, science, manufacturing, recycling, as well as challenges in municipalities, tourism, harbours and ports to how GIS (Geographic Information System) can be used as a tool to understand the distribution, accumulation and removal of marine waste in Africa, the workshop delved into these and other questions related to setting up a strategy for the Network. All helped build an outline of the strategy. The goal is to have the strategy ready for international review by June 2017 when Port Elizabeth will host an international waste conference. 

Organiser of the event, CEO of the Sustainable Seas Trust, Dr Tony Ribbink said: I was particularly pleased to see the way in which academia, business, government, civil society networked, demonstrating how seriously they are taking the pollution issue. Indeed, we all need to do this; because, frighteningly, our planet is so badly polluted that every breath you take, every drop you drink, every morsel of food you eat anywhere is polluted; in some places so badly polluted it can kill you, in others only races of pollution are found. The teams working together on Monday gave me confidence that we can turn matters around so that our children’s tomorrow will be better than it is today”.

The official launch on Monday evening saw guest speakers voicing their support for this new project, and indicated how they saw their own role in the network. The interconnectedness of the various sectors in solving the problem of plastic pollution, and waste at large, was clearly enunciated. Speakers included Deputy Vice-Chancellor of NMMU, Prof Andrew Leitch, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Business Chamber, Mr Kevin Hustler and Executive Director of Plastics SA, Mr Anton Hanekom, Mr Andre Share of Operation Phakisa, Councillor Rory Riordan of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Ms Mandlakazi Skefile, the CEO of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism and Sakhumzi Somyo, the MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The event was marked by a memorable performance by the NMMU Choir, and the effervescent Master of Ceremonies, Ms Buli G. The atmosphere during the choir’s performance was electric and emulated the excitement of launching this ambitious project. 

Mr Kristian Teleki, the Senior Marine Advisor to the Prince of Wale’s International Sustainability Unit gave the keynote address. His talk focused on how valuable plastic is to our society and economies, but he also discussed the massive impact that plastic has on the environment. The purpose of his analysis was to look at ways in which human beings can co-exist with plastic until other alternatives are found. He ended his talk titled “The Plastic Dilemma” by saying: "This is not a blame game. This challenge is on a massive scale and cannot be tackled by one group. It is about dialogue and innovation coming together to tackle major challenges and find new opportunities in material efficiency". He stressed the huge importance of developing the African Marine Waste Network, showing that the problems in Africa are clearly growing and in desperate need of collaboration among countries and pollution and waste know no boundaries.

The official launch of the African Marine Waste Network anchored a programme which has already commenced and will add impetus to a multidisciplinary and cross-boundary offensive which is certain to improve the quality of life of millions of people and which might be a step towards saving our planet and our continent. The project will be run from Port Elizabeth, adding to the growing number of national and international marine initiative that are centred in Nelson Mandela Bay.

To find out more about the African Marine Waste Network and how you can join the network please contact info@sst.org.za or call 076 608 3587.

By working together, we as a country and more importantly as a continent can make a difference!

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