The 2017 African Marine Waste Conference took place in Port Elizabeth recently, and was attended by about 200 delegates from nine African states and a further ten countries from other continents.
Managed by the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST) under the leadership of Dr Tony Ribbink, CEO of SST, the conference aimed to continue the concerted effort of better managing marine litter with the help of governments, NGOs, researchers and other stakeholders across the African continent.
Industry involvement
Plastics|SA hosted the first two African Marine Debris Summits that took place in Cape Town in 2014 and 2016 with the support of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the Department of Environmental Affairs and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), and also participated in the launch of the African Marine Waste Network that took place in Port Elizabeth in July last year.
“This year’s conference built on the initiative started three years ago to create a platform for African and international delegates and experts to discuss issues relating to marine waste around the African continent, including data and research, capacity building, prosperity through the development of economic enterprises centred on waste management, education and awareness and the role of the consumer, government, industry and municipalities.
The focus at this year’s event was on finding innovative solutions that would cater to African circumstances and cultures and using opportunities to shape a brighter future for the human health, economies and environments of Africa,” explained Douw Steyn, sustainability director at Plastics|SA.
Marine waste strategy
“By bringing together delegates primarily from Africa, along with advisors from other continents, a variety of different sectors and insights were represented. We participated in various fruitful discussions and debates on issues relating to marine waste in Africa, enabling us to develop a strategic plan entitled “Marine Waste Strategy: Guide to Action for Africa”, for tackling and alleviating the continent’s waste problems,” Steyn disclosed
In addition to presentations, panel discussions and parallel sessions, workshops on microplastics, data and research, and mobile applications were also held over the duration of the conference.  Plastics|SA chaired an industry workshop featuring participants from various sectors. Industry representatives, scientists, educators, waste disposal experts and the maritime sector were encouraged to engaged in a debate which aimed to identify the issues that have the biggest impact on the marine environment.
Long-term commitment
The plastics industry has long been involved in efforts to reduce plastic marine litter, from conducting research to enhancing product stewardship to cleaning up beaches. As the umbrella body representing the entire South African Plastics industry and a signatory of the Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter, Plastics|SA will continue to support and collaborate with industry efforts aimed at combatting marine litter.