Nesta announces £1.8m fund to tackle plastic pollution in sub-Saharan Africa

The fund will look to support creative projects that can tackle the issue through things like gamification, incentives and storytelling.

Innovation foundation Nesta Challenges has launched a £1.8 million fund to tackle the problem of plastic pollution in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some 17 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated on the African continent each year, according to Nesta. With only 12% of this being recycled, the rest is dumped, burned or buried and significant quantities end up in the surrounding oceans.

“Creative communications that shift behaviour and attitudes”

This new fund concentrates on promoting change among the public, and is the “third strand” of the Afri-Plastics Challenge set out by Nesta. Previous “strands” focused on creating solutions to reduce or eliminate plastic usage and accelerating the growth of innovations.

Four main behavioural changes have been identified as targets: reducing littering, separating plastic waste, choosing reusable options and refusing single-use plastic.

There is a focus on “creative” solutions to the issue, with the competition brief naming things like “nudges, gamification, incentives and storytelling” as particularly desirable.

Nesta Challenges director of international development Constance Agyeman says “creative communications that shift behaviour and attitudes” around plastic are a key part in the fight against waste.

“Individuals and communities will be pivotal in driving positive change”

Beyond just consumer behaviour, Nesta says the challenge will also examine how women and girls acts “across the plastics management value chain” in sub-Saharan African communities too.

Afri-Plastics Challenge judge Adwoa Coleman says this is to ensure that a circular economy based on plastics can “thrive and flourish”. “It needs the support and full-hearted engagement of everyone involved in the supply chain,” she says.

“Individuals and communities will be pivotal in driving positive change for plastics in Africa.”

Three winning teams

A total of £1.8 million is on offer, and this will be divided into smaller lots and awarded based on judges’ findings.

Thirty semi-finalists will be awarded £5,000 each to develop their concepts ahead of a judging panel hosted in June 2022. From there, 15 finalists will be selected and awarded £50,000 to further develop their projects. Finally, in May 2023, three winning teams will be awarded £250,000 each.

In addition to the financial support, the teams will also be helped with “capacity building expertise” and industry experts.

The deadline for entries is 16 February – to find out more about the competition, head to the Afri-Plastics Challenge website.

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