Last month, on the road to COP27, Raffi Schieir, director of Bantam Materials UK and the Prevented Ocean Plastic Plastic programme travelled to Africa with a group of the world’s best recyclers.
In Cairo, eight individuals from across the industry, representing six geographies on five continents, assembled to hear the announcement of the expansion of the Programme into Africa, and to ratify the Prevented Ocean Plastic Standards.
Prevented Ocean Plastic Africa will divert at least 5,000 tonnes of plastic from entering the ocean in its first 18 months, with the aim of rapidly scaling to stop 10,000 tonnes. While the Standards will go beyond basic regulatory and compliance measures to establish industry-leading criteria designed to minimise environmental impact, ensure quality product, and improve worker conditions.
Before their time in Cairo, the group travelled to the East of the continent, an area of significant need. They met with local collection point owners- individuals servicing certain communities- and with local collection centre managers to share their experiences and best practices. They met with resident government officials, an important step towards applying the Prevented Ocean Plastic methodology locally. But actions can speak louder than words, and the team also broke ground on new infrastructure builds to start directly supporting local people.
In Schieir’s words, “These are parts of the world that have experienced people arriving to take their natural resources in their raw form and then bring them elsewhere to generate value. Prevented Ocean Plastic will ensure that value is added domestically, and create jobs locally.”
Prevented Ocean Plastic is also dedicated to standardising, formalising, and elevating existing processes. Over time, those existing collection centres will be brought in line with the Prevented Ocean Plastic Standards, allowing the community to be cleaned and cleared and serviced.
“One of the things that we’ve been unwrapping for a decade in this business is that certain regions have been looked at for cost savings,” says Schieir. “Historically, the first question that people supplying material from places like East Africa have been asked is ‘how much cheaper is it going to be?’. The focus has always been on reducing cost. That creates a race to the bottom where quality is sacrificed, dignity is sacrificed, and methodology is sacrificed”
Schieir had actually visited the same regions earlier in the year. He identified potential local partners and promised them he would return. In his words, “I told them I would be back in a few months’ time, and I wouldn’t be back alone. I’ll be back with support. I’ll bring good people here to help you build and help you grow. And I was committed to following through.”
He will return again. Future plans include an expansion of the Prevented Ocean Plastic collection centre model- making initial successes repeatable and expanding to other coastal regions- cleaning up the Swahili coast, and making a genuine impact.
Plastic recycling is not new in East Africa. But many parts of the existing industry have been operating without high standards or best practices. Prevented Ocean Plastic has identified the individuals and organisations that have been doing better, even in these difficult circumstances, and are now committed to supporting them further in their endeavours.
About PREVENTED OCEAN PLASTIC:
Prevented Ocean Plastic is a pioneering plastic recycling company developing locally customized sorting and collection infrastructure to underserved communities across the world. We are committed to strengthening the supply chain and scaling solutions for the management of plastic waste in the country. We provide high quality traceable recycled plastic to global markets to drive environmental, social and economic value from the bottle collector to the end consumer.