BCSS rethinks plastic with a new collaborative community project in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP)

September 20, 2019 | Andreas Ryalen

Plastic is a useful material. So much so that nearly everything in the world today is in some way made of plastic. Think about it, how much plastic did you encounter today?

Sometimes you may not even be aware of its presence – your phone may contain plastic, and what you are wearing may be made of plastic.

But, if plastic is so useful, why has there been such a global movement to refuse it?

Estimations show that at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. This is accumulating there, with nowhere else to go – it is called a “dead end”. More recently, however, more of this plastic that was ‘invisible’ in the ocean is washing ashore, found in dead marine animals and birds, and even in the fish we eat; reminding us that there is no “throwing away”. Maybe plastic it is not a dead end after all, and it comes back to us, humans, as a final repository.

Part of the problem is that there is just so much plastic (about 80% of all marine debris from the depths to the surface of the ocean is plastic) and that a good portion of these are non-recyclable; which means they sit in the ocean degrading and turning into the infamously known microplastics. But what about the plastic that can be recycled, what are they doing in the ocean? Researchers have estimated that if nothing is done, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

BCSS has spent the last two years looking at the plastic problem in the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park (BANP), doing beach clean ups, identifying what the ocean sends back to shore, occasionally hooking onto pieces of plastic in the open ocean, until merely being a spectator to the issue was no longer enough. It was time to seek solutions.

Plastic found washed up on the island. Some containing bite marks!

We know there is a problem, but we do not have facts and figures. Thus, the first step in understanding the issue is to collect data for as long as we can. What is being found? Where is it being found? How much of it? Where is it coming from? Who is/should be held accountable for it? But data alone are not sufficient, what will be done with the collected plastic? Where will it end up?

The more one investigates it, the more complex the issue gets. Much of the research and material that has inspired the BCSS Plastic & Recycling programme, was done in countries with access to effective waste management systems and infrastructure. Developing this project in a remote island has brought its own set of challenges and has shone a light on the challenges the community faces when it comes to their waste management. With plastic being so widely available, it inevitably finds its way to the island, but how does it go out? How could this be improved?

It soon became clear that merely collecting data was no longer enough. This is not a project that can be achieved alone. Thus, we wondered how the programme could include the community and empower them to be part of and lead the solution.

Students at Escola Primária do 1° e 2° grau de Benguerra, preparing for the World Clean Up Day beach plastic collection with BCSS

Estimations show that marine and coastal resources globally generate as much as $3 trillion per year. For the people of the Bazaruto Archipelago, life revolves around the ocean- it is a source of food, livelihood, medicine, and entertainment. Plastic pollution may pose a threat to this vital source of life. This programme aims to work with the community to: bring the numbers and information together through a data-base, raise awareness, analyse and apply local solutions that work.

BCSS is committed to involve the community of the national park so that they are participants and ultimately, beneficiaries, economically, of the plastic business, by facilitating then the middle-man process of getting what seems a “dead end” into a commodity that can be seen as a livelihood.

As this project is carefully being constructed and implemented, BCSS looks forward to seeing the “bigger picture” forming and the programme’s contribution to sustainable development in the WIO region. Stay tuned to hear more on this as it unfolds, it will be a unique initiative with a long-lasting impact on people and their lives.