Mombasa Plastics Prize to Award Innovators in No-Pollution Initiatives

The Mombasa Plastics Prize, with the backing of USAID and the Government of Canada, and run by Challenge Works, aims to inspire young innovators to tackle marine plastic waste within the county.

The goal of the Mombasa Plastics Prize is to raise awareness of the problem of plastics in the ocean and to support innovations. The prize so far has 60 innovators whose ideas have been selected to tackle marine plastic pollution along the coastline of Mombasa County.

Innovators are aged 18-25, amongst whom finalists are grouped into 15 teams and are now in a race to be one of the top three teams to win over KES 7 million of cash prizes. The first-place team will take home KES 3.5 million.

Mombasa Plastics Prize is aimed at creating awareness and initiatives that seek to reduce marine plastics mismanagement bearing the research that points to a steadily increasing pollution of the ocean.

Based on a recent study published in the journal Science in 2020 it’s estimated that there is an equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic dumped into the ocean each minute. This figure could triple to nearly 29 million metric tonnes by 2040 if current production and consumption remain unchecked.

Emphasizing the resolutions from the recently concluded United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA 5.2,) where the world’s ministers for the environment agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee with the mandate to forge an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.

Delivered by Challenge Works, and supported by USAID and Global Affairs Canada, the prize builds on the work of the Afri-Plastics Challenge, which aims to reduce marine plastics in sub-Saharan African countries by developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement.

“Our experience with the Afri-Plastics Challenge, a similar initiative as Mombasa Plastics Prize, that has been running in the past year, has given us unique insights and unearthed creative ways of working with local communities to tackle plastic waste,” said Tris Dyson, Managing Director at Challenge Works.

Further stating that learnings from the Afri-Plastics Challenge demonstrate that the relationship between plastic waste usage and human behavior is complex; however, when innovations are paired with engagement strategies such as nudges, gamification, incentives, and storytelling, as well as understanding the role that women and girls play across the value chain, behavior change is triggered.

According to H.E. Francis Foleni Thoya Deputy Governor and CEC for Environment and Solid Waste Management, the youth are a critical cog in the wheel of progress toward marine plastics elimination and we laud this Mombasa Plastics Prize initiative which seeks to engage them in solving the challenge at a community level.

“Like other growing urban areas, plastic pollution in Mombasa is a huge challenge. Through the Mombasa County Solid Waste Management Act, which advocates for the reduction, recovery, and recycling of waste, the County Government is in the process of implementing policies to regulate waste management,” said Mr. Foleni Thoya.

The USAID Kenya and East Africa Deputy Mission Director Sheila Roquitte emphasized the urgency of reversing the tide of marine plastic pollution that has acclaimed recognition as a global challenge.

“This not only requires but also calls for collective action. We are pleased to support efforts to spur Mombasa’s young people to take the lead in innovative solutions to prevent millions of tons of plastic from ending up in our oceans every year,” added Sheila Roquitte.

The Director of Environment at Global Affairs Canada, Tom Bui, lauded the Mombasa Plastics Prize initiative as he offered Canadian Government’s willingness to associate in making it a success.

“The Canadian Government is proud to be part of an initiative committed to finding innovative solutions that promote the circular plastic economy, while simultaneously improving the social economic standing of women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the solutions may vary, policy solutions, increased awareness, and improved design among others, are critical to changing behavior and better managing plastic waste,” said Mr. Tom Bui.

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