Canada spearheads development of innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement in sub-Saharan Africa

AFRICA – The government of Canada has partnered with Nesta Challenges to undertake the Afri-Plastics Challenge, aimed to improve plastic waste management in sub-Saharan Africa with a cash price of CA$14.5m (US$11.4m) to be distributed to the winners.

Nesta Challenges, based in the United Kingdom, was launched in 2012 to increase understanding and practical evidence about challenge prizes as an innovation method to encourage more governments, charities and businesses to use competitions to make a tangible, positive impact on society.

The Afri-Plastics Challenge seeks to find innovators with scalable and sustainable solutions to prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other than the forementioned cash price prize, the competition will distribute more than CA$1,000,000 (US$790,000) in form of capacity-building support to the winning innovators across the various strands of the Challenge.

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The competition’s first strand, Accelerating Ideas, invites entrepreneurs from across the region to showcase their best innovations designed to improve plastic waste management in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

“The drive for home-grown innovation in Africa has led to a major rise in African entrepreneurs developing solutions that are effective and contextual to their environments.”

Constance Agyeman – Director of International Development, Nesta Challenges

The challenge calls for applications from registered non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that have proof of concept and the ability to scale nationally or regionally to reach a high target number of people, particularly engaging women and girls.

“The drive for home-grown innovation in Africa has led to a major rise in African entrepreneurs developing solutions that are effective and contextual to their environments. This in turn has attracted several global firms and tech hubs to the continent.

“We are looking for founders, innovators and entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa with exciting concepts to alleviate the negative impacts of plastic pollution, to help protect marine environments,” Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Nesta Challenges said.

Over 220 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year across the world, and much of it ends up in oceans and other water bodies.

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 17 million tonnes of waste are generated annually, and only 12% of plastic waste is recycled and the rest are disposed of, burned or buried.

As Africa begins to recover from COVID-19, innovation remains vital to economic growth, competitiveness and health.

SMEs are an important part of the solution because they are constantly innovating, pushing the boundaries of what is possible under much pressure and often with limited resources.

The recently launched project is an element of the CA$100 million (US$78.7m) Marine Litter Mitigation Fund announced by Prime Minister Trudeau at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix in June 2018.

Financing for the initiative comes from the International Assistance Priorities Fund.

As the Afri-Plastics Challenge seeks to find more innovative solutions, South Africa has made significant strides in boosting recycling of plastic bottles with the launch of a new novel labelling technique.

South African PET plastic bottle recyclers Extrupet and PETCO, in partnership with drinking water bottler Oasis Water, label manufacturer UPM Raflatac and label printers Java Print, recently unveiled a new wash-off label adhesive placed on bottles.

The ground-breaking solution renders plastic bottles with self-adhesive labels fully recyclable, promising positive spin-offs for the environment and plastic producers.

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