Skip to main content

Cameroon’s smart approach to ocean plastics

Researchers say focussed collections of waste plastic before it is washed out to sea offer a cost-effective way to avoid ‘ocean plastics’.

A two-year pilot project in Cameroon to test inexpensive plastic litter collection, ‘Reducing Plastic Litter in African Cities: Cost-Effective Methods and Potential for Recycling Offsets’ identifies the cheapest ways of diverting plastic litter before it washes away. The researchers at the University of Yaounde were backed by Fair Trade Recycling, an export reform conservation group, and US-based Good Point Recycling.

Lead researcher Asi Quiggle Atud and his team had previously charted how plastic litter is washed by stormwater run-off every rainy season and how long it took for the waste to arrive in choke points in canals and gutters. They predicted how the plastic would ‘collect itself’ before more rain eventually washed it out to sea.

The report from the pilot shows how his team collected plastic litter in three Cameroon cities, including spending 15 days at eight different litter concentrations in canals around the capital Yaounde. Seven members per team spent 4.3 hours on each site and collected a total of four tonnes of plastic in 7 748 labour hours. At Cameroon’s minimum wage, that would have cost US$ 2 866 (EUR 2 600).

Triple approach

The report says the larger focus should be on three elements: improved waste collection methods in Africa, raised awareness on the importance of sorting waste at household level and development of industries for recycling such materials.

A peer review into this method of cost-effective recycling is being carried out by Wilfred Mbah who says: ‘Dr. Asi may have invented a way to do that – and less expensively than sending westerners with nets to fish it out of the ocean,’ in an apparent reference to The Ocean Cleanup project tackling the ‘Great Garbage Patch’ in the Pacific.

The report also looks at the potential for offering off-set opportunities to be auctioned to plastic industry giants, scrap plastic exporters, beverage industry giants, or even small recyclers like Good Point. Cities abroad whose recycling rates have stalled might choose to fund such collections rather than spend millions on diminishing returns at home. The researchers are working on ways of preventing abuse through fraud or greenwashing claims.

Asi concludes: ‘To reduce the rate of plastic waste, in our environment and especially in the sea, will require investment to industrialise plastic recycling in Africa. It is also important to sensitise the population on basic management of plastic waste and to involve all actors of economic circle to join their effort.

‘We hope to make this effort ongoing, a win-win-win, for the environment, African jobs, and the plastic industry.’

Don't hesitate to contact us to share your input and ideas. Subscribe to the magazine or (free) newsletter.

You might find this interesting too

BIR confronts plastic scrap downturn
Site Zero ready to beef up SPR’s recycling
New line helps plastic recycler to minimise contamination

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe now and get a full year for just €169 (normal rate is €225) Subscribe