What we’re learning

Research, Development, and Monitoring focuses on understanding the impact of waste in coastal communities, enabling us to take the necessary action.

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Knowledge drives action

Well-structured, high-quality research programmes foster a comprehensive understanding of the challenges affecting sustainable waste management in identified coastal communities. Our African Network Map reveals potential opportunities for collaborative partnerships aimed at sustainable waste management.

We also thoughtfully design all our interventions when it comes to training, skills transfer, capacity building, community upliftment, and enterprise development. Informed impact reporting equips us with the tools we need to assess whether our interventions are effective and have had the desired impact.

A wave of good results

Through coordinated and consolidated action, here’s what we’ve achieved over a span of 4 years.

The launch of the first regional litter monitoring programme for marine plastics

This programme started in 2019 and is a collaboration between the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and SST. The programme has yielded new insights into the amount, type and sources of waste in the eastern Africa region. (However, African remains data poor and this work con5nues unabated).

The publication of the first African Marine Litter Monitoring Manual

The manual outlines the techniques and adjustments to methods used in our regional litter monitoring programme. A chapter of this manual (beach macrolitter surveys) has been converted into a freely available online course by the African Waste Academy to citizen scientists and researchers.

The introduction of the first Sample Preparation Manual for the analysis of plastic-related pollutants

This manual, builds capacity within Africa for developing datasets related to macro- and microplastic pollutants.

Citizen science training programme focused on the collection of data about abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear

Our training programme empowers individuals to record relevant data while participating in beach litter clean-up activities.

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Our work in South Africa

In Nelson Mandela Bay, our initiatives have enabled SST to refine detailed proof-of-concept models, design principles, and appropriate resources, all aimed at informing comprehensive plans for the sustainable management of plastic waste.

SST plans to scale its innovative proof-of-concept model, Operation Clean Spot (OCS) – which was originally trialled in Nelson Mandela Bay - to other densely populated coastal cities in South Africa. OCS collaborates with engaged citizens, across the packaging value chain to significantly reduce land-based litter. People can adopt a spot, clean it up and share their data. Our goal is to expand this model, along with other design principles from our impact portfolios, throughout the rest of Africa.

As the only African nation that is a member of the Abidjan Convention, the Nairobi Convention, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, South Africa is uniquely positioned to initiate projects along both the East and West coasts of the continent.

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Africa at work

International interventions

We have cultivated strong partnerships with several multilateral organisations in Africa, notably the Abidjan Convention, the Nairobi Convention, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). Our design strategies, guidance frameworks, and practical toolkits facilitate the implementation of sustainable waste management measures aimed at mitigating marine pollution, and securing the blue economy, in other African nations.

Anchoring action through research

Monitoring marine waste

There is a significant lack of data on litter in Africa. We conduct surveys to record the amount and types of litter found at carefully selected locations on land, in rivers, and on beaches. Some examples include plastic bags, plastic bottles, fishing lines, cigarette butts and sweet wrappers. This information can be used to understand where the most polluted areas are, where the litter is coming from, what the problem litter items are, and how we can address the litter problem. Litter monitoring involves repeated surveys and tracks changes in litter over time.

Remote sensing

On-the-ground waste surveys are often time-consuming, can be unsafe, require a lot of manpower and usually do not cover large areas. To collect data of waste at large scale, specialised methods of data acquisition are required. SST has designed a remote-sensing protocol utilising UAVs (drones) and airplanes to efficiently identify plastic-waste accumulation sites within close proximity to river systems that connect to the marine environment.

Mobile applications

We aim to extend our reach. Mobile applications are convenient, cost effective and widespread, which make them a simple yet powerful tool to collect valuable data at a scale and efficiency that was not previously possible. We have developed and are currently testing a new litter monitoring app that will serve both the general public as well as scientists. This app has been designed to complement the African Marine Litter Monitoring Manual – the litter categories used in the app are based on the datasheets found in the manual, so that data collected using the app are comparable to data being collected using the methods described in the manual (which is being used across African). Once the app is completed, we plan to launch a citizen science initiative using the mobile app, and eventually roll it out to the rest of Africa.

Sea-based sources of waste

Waste can make its way from land to sea but sometimes, it’s sea based. We’ve developed the Sea based Sources of Waste Project to mitigate waste from fishing and other vessels. Our first port of call has been to address vessel waste management at South African commercial ports by reviewing the effectiveness of present port waste reception facilities, waste collection, sorting, and disposal methods. Our goal is to improve South African fishing waste policies to mitigate fishing gear losses at sea and propose the inclusion of recycling initiatives for end-of-life fishing gear, which are supported by stakeholders in the fishing industries. Secondly, we aim to identify the extent of fishing related waste entering the oceans of Africa.

Microplastics

Microplastics are small plastic particles that are less than 5 mm in size and include items such as plastic pellets, fragments, microfibres, and microbeads. They can be mistaken for food particles by marine life, which can cause physical harm as well as leaching potentially harmful plastic-related pollutants into the organism.

To study the presence of plastic-related pollutants in organisms, we have our own sample preparation laboratory in place. The laboratory has been designed to prevent the contamination of samples through the use of specialised equipment, such as a laminar flow cabinet that blows clean filtered air over the samples.

Litter booms & traps

The reduction and removal of urban litter is a complex and difficult task. One method that cities are implementing to reduce pollution in city rivers is litter capturing devices located in stormwater canals and rivers. Cleaning up ocean litter is often difficult and costly, so capturing the litter before it enters the sea is critical. Litter booms are floating devices suspended across a river or canal that trap litter and stop it from flowing downstream. Litter traps have a cage or net that captures litter going into it. There are also combinations of the two, such as where a litter boom has a floating cage attached to it.

Research and publications

Manuals

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African Marine Litter Monitoring Manual, Second Edition

This second edition of the manual introduces new methods to assess litter upstream, including land-based sources and waterways.

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Peer Review

Implementing land-based litter surveys through visual inspection of imagery using unmanned aerial vehicles

Understanding the location of dumping sites, or where littering occurs, is needed for effective and efficient waste management efforts. South Africa experien...

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Peer Review

Metals and co-presence of other pollutants in mussels (Perna perna) around Algoa Bay: Human consumption safety concerns

Elevated metal concentrations can become harmful to marine organisms and to humans that consume them. Metal concentrations at multiple sites around Algoa Bay...

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Manuals

Sample Preparation Manual for the Analysis of Plastic-related Pollutants

The occurrence of plastics in the natural environment has been reported from the most remote places on earth. As such, there is growing global concern about ...

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