Experts from around the world are joining forces to tackle plastic pollution in Africa using the latest digital innovations, thanks to a new research project led by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
The project titled ‘Digital Innovations for Transitioning to a Circular Plastic Economy (DITCh Plastic)‘, has been launched to help design a framework that will enable Africa to transition to a circular plastic economy.
By bringing together the continent’s leading innovation/technology hubs and universities, as well as third sector organisations and top UK universities, researchers hope to develop a sustainable ‘closed loop’ system in Africa whereby plastic materials flow constantly through the economy, rather than being used once and discarded.
Dr Muyiwa Oyinlola, Associate Professor in Engineering for Sustainable Development at DMU, is the lead researcher for the project. He will be working alongside colleagues Dr Kutoma Wakunuma and Dr Seun Kolade.
“In order to sustainably tackle plastic pollution in Africa, we need to do things differently and look at ways to grow a global network that can benefit the continent,” said Dr Oyinlola.
By combining its extensive existing networks and infrastructure, the team will work with different levels of stakeholders, including international organisations, governments and at the community level. The project will produce a Pan-African platform to create public engagement for knowledge exchange and capacity building in sustainably managing plastic waste and pollution.
The platform will bring together existing websites, digital tools, apps and innovative processes that have been designed specifically for plastic reduction, recycling and reuse in different environments.
“We want to help African businesses to upscale,” continued Dr Oyinlola. “Most of them have developed innovative solutions for recycling and reducing plastic but there are still gaps that need addressing. We are trying to map different technical, social and political perspectives to help them.”
The team is planning to run workshops in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, bringing experts and stakeholders together to offer solutions to the gaps identified.
“I am extremely honoured to be leading this multisectoral network which brings together some of Africa’s leading innovation and technology firms, as well as extremely talented researchers and professionals,” added Dr Oyinlola.
“I am positive that together, we will make a significant contribution to tackling the plastic waste challenge in Africa.”
Funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), DITCh Plastic is a collaborative project between DMU, University of Warwick, University of Birmingham and Aston University in the UK, as well as African institutions: University of Lagos, Kigali Collaborative Research Centre and University of Namibia.
Experts from recognised leading technology hubs in Africa, including Co-Creation Hub Lagos , iHub Nairobi and BongoHive Lusaka are also involved, alongside third sector organisations Chatham House; the world-leading policy institute, and Plastic Oceans, whose award-winning documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ was named by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the most important films of our time”.
Dr Oyinlola’s research focuses on building capacity of local skills to engineer and use local materials for tackling global challenges. His recent research projects have involved developing processes and products that promote upcycling and recycling of plastics in low income communities.
For more information about the DITCh Plastic Network visit: https://ditch-plastic.org/