Regulations, actions and management process for plastic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa

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Regulations, actions and management process for plastic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa
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Written by Ahou Rachel Koumi , Centre de Recherches Océanologiques, Abidjan

Pour lire cet article en français, veuillez visiter: https://www.openenvironmentaldata.org/pilots/reglementation-actions-et-processus-de-gestion-des-dechets-plastiques-en-cote-divoire-afrique-de-louest

Plastic wastes which pollutes and degrades the environment, ecosystems, rivers and the ocean is a critical problem in Côte d'Ivoire, a coastal country in West Africa. Population pressure is increasing in this country and accompanied by a weak development of infrastructures for the management of organic, chemical and solid pollution. By 2025, it is predicated there will be 500,000 tonnes of poorly managed plastic waste.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the main stakeholders involved in plastic wastes are several Ministries, Structures or State Bodies affiliated to Ministries, Universities, Research Centers and Institutes, Private Companies and Study Offices, Civil Society Organization (NGOs; associations), and International Conventions. However, the Ministry of Sanitation is in charge of managing and organizing the collection of all types of waste. As of May 2013 this Ministry prohibited the production, import, marketing, possession and use of plastic bags in Côte d'Ivoire. Due to this decree, all plastic bags made of low density polyethylene or any other synthetic polymers less than 30μm thick are prohibited.

These prohibitions apply to any industry producing plastic bags; any company importing and marketing plastic bags; any holder of plastic bags whose main activity is the repackaging and marketing of plastic bags; any final holder of plastic bags who separates them from the product to be consumed or used and who holds the packaging. In addition there is a prohibition on any discharge of plastic bags in the streets and other public places, in urban and rural areas, in the sewerage and drainage network, the water bodies and their surroundings, including the maritime public domain. This prohibition also applies to any immersion of solid or liquid products packaged in plastic bags in maritime, lagoon, river and lake waters and any rejection or abandonment of plastic bags in maritime, lagoon, river and lake waters.

Various actions to raise awareness and collect plastic wastes have been initiated by state structures, NGOs, youth associations and the private sector. Some examples are:  (1) SMEs have been recycling plastic wastes in industrial zones since 2005, (2) several repurchase and recycling agreements for plastic wastes have been signed by the State, (3) plastic bottles are reused as food containers by the population, (4) in year 2015, the State announced 19 recovery units (UVD) of all types of plastic wastes in paving stones, (5) Africwaste created a plastic waste collection and recovery sites and installed in the largest landfill in the capital, (6) a platform for geolocation and collection of plastic wastes was set up by a Start up called "Coliba" , (7) in 2019, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the Colombian social enterprise Conceptos Plasticos have built a plant for transforming plastic wastes into modular plastic bricks for the construction of classrooms and schools.

Despite the prohibition decree and the multiple actions carried out by the various stakeholders, the Ministry of the Environment reports more than 200,000 tonnes of plastic bags worth 27 148 800 dollars USD produced each year in Côte d'Ivoire. According to the UNDP, to date, the plastics industry finances 10,000 formal jobs and more than 20,000 informal jobs in Côte d'Ivoire. The use of plastic and plastic bags is more and more entrenched in the habits of the population with the excessive use of plastic and plastic bags in the industries and sectors of consumption and hygiene.

Packaging and plastic material after use are thrown into garbage bags, in the streets, on the beaches without any sorting attitude. These wastes end up in sewage drains, landfills, bays, lagoons and ultimately in the ocean. AfricWaste reports more than 288 tonnes of this waste, which accumulates in the environment every month despite the ban decree. This is due to the local culture of retailing, poorly organized street food and the strong economic potential of the plastic sector in Côte d'Ivoire. However, the implementation of new large-scale national and international, private and state projects in Côte d'Ivoire reflects a national and international will to continue the fight against plastic waste pollution. Also, very few projects on plastic waste are led by scientists, research, manufacturing laboratories (FabLab) and innovation, slowing down the adoption of solutions and the success in their implementation. This is because the majority of the projects on the topic of plastic wastes were realized by ministries, structures in charge affiliated to the State, private companies and consulting firms, and international conventions organizations. Because, often the funding is international and oriented in these structures, the researchers must write a project and compete to obtain the funding, moreover we realized that the scientists were not very aware of this subject.

To remedy this, a co-creative and technological reflection workshop "aquathon" was organized in November, 2019 on the theme of "Plastic Waste in the Ocean" with 30 participants from 18 organizations (Ministries, Structures in charge affiliated to the State, University, research center and institution, private company and consulting firm, civil society organization, international conventions and projects, FabLab and innovation laboratories) on this topic. Aquathon was the initiative of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of Côte d’Ivoire and it was hosted at the Oceanography Research Center of Abidjan. It aimed to bring out innovative projects focused on the management of plastic discharges and waste, by creating a transdisciplinary community of actors around the subject.  The aquathon used the tools and methods of collective intelligence and design thinking and effectively enabled the emergence of multidisciplinary and multi-actor exploration of four prototypes of innovation:

1) "Plastic Solutions" which offers tools and processes to reduce the release of plastics into the environment, supported by researchers, civil society organizations and consulting firms specialized in environmental pollution, innovation, energy and climate change.

2) “Transfo Plastic” which offers a plastic waste recovery unit from local resources, supported by Researchers and structures affiliated to the State specialized in aquaculture, logistics, environment, information and communication technologies and geography.

3) “CETD Plastic” which offers job creation through the sorting of plastic waste, supported by the team composed of researchers, civil society and international conventions organizations specializing in plankton, geography, maintenance of beach property, aquaculture, education and economics.

4) "Robot Dreamers" which is a tool for monitoring the biogeochemical quality of water, supported by the innovators and researchers specializing in robotics, microbiology, phytoplankton, fishing, and hydrobiology.

These prototypes of solutions must be deepened, oriented and confronted with manufacturers and consumers in order to generate their success and massive adoption. Projects need also technical and financial support from institutional bodies charged with the environmental pollution for their achievement. Continued collaboration with innovation laboratories, incubators and the provision of funds to develop emerging projects will facilitate the maturation of prototypes, technology transfer, dissemination and entrepreneurship.

Success in the management of plastic waste in the Côte d’Ivoire requires the involvement of scientific research, innovation laboratories, FabLabs and Makers, industrial producers, consumers and substantial funding. The membership of the institutional bodies charged with managing plastic pollution of these solutions and their funding will allow the multidisciplinary and multi-actors teams to continue their implementation.