A new report by Oliver Nudds, Managing Director, Ocean Plastic Technologies has shown that current waste management practices in Africa are causing major economic, social and environmental impacts.

The rise in plastic consumption combined with weak waste collection infrastructure is resulting in increased marine plastic litter, which is negatively impacting coastal economies.

Oliver Nudds points out that poor dumping, disposal and burning of waste is causing greenhouse gases to escalate, which is polluting both ground and surface water. This is also increasing the risk of diseases and causing air pollution, ultimately affecting human health.

According to Nudds, the average waste collection rate in Africa is approximately 55% of all the existing waste materials. More than 90% of Africa’s waste is disposed of at uncontrolled dumpsites and landfills, often followed by open burning.

There is a significant risk associated with the current waste management systems and practices on the continent. However, with this risk there are lucrative economic and social opportunities that can help solve these issues.

TakaTaka, a Kenyan company, has actively managed waste collection, sorting, composting, plastic recycling and purchasing waste from waste materials pickers. This waste management project has enabled affordable waste collection services to low-income areas by augmenting the recycling system to approximately 90% of all collected waste material. The project has also led to job creation for women and youth.

In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government has transformed the Koshe dumpsite into a waste-to-energy plant. This has resulted in approximately 80% of Addis Ababa’s rubbish being repurposed towards energy supply, with the city supplementing approximately 30% of household electricity

Elsewhere on the continent waste disposal and management companies in South Africa have invested in new technologies that can efficiently manage waste collection. These companies leverage user-friendly smartphone applications to facilitate prompt service, extra pickups, and bill payment through push notifications.

Like in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa, there are many other success stories in Africa and outside the continent where companies have generated innovative plastic management solutions. This has lead to a change in how industries are viewing the long term viability of sustainable business.

When reusing waste products, some companies are producing apparel from plastic shopping bags, repurposing beach plastic into kitchenware, producing edible seaweed straws instead of plastic straws, among other products.

There is increasing interest in inclusive innovation. New goods and services are developed for and/or by those who have been excluded from the development mainstream, particularly those living in extreme poverty.

These innovations in waste management for Africa and globally are meeting many of the UNSDGs by minimizing greenhouse gas emissions which are helping to alleviate the climate crisis, conserving oceans and land to preserve marine and wildlife. Additional benefits from innovations in plastic waste management are energy conservation, reduced petroleum use and reduced landfill use.

Despite the great strides made by many companies in Sub-Saharan Africa in providing plastic management solutions, there is a call to action to bring waste under control.

With growing risks of inadequate plastic waste management, innovators, startups and established companies in Sub-Saharan Africa have a huge opportunity to launch new and inclusive ideas to respond to plastic and waste management issues.