Afri-Plastics Challenge funds scale back of plastic packaging waste solutions

Nesta Challenges has launched the second strand - Creating Solutions - of the Afri-Plastics Challenge, funded by the Government of Canada. The Challenge is  supporting African innovators with new ideas or early-stage solutions, encouraging the reduction or elimination of plastic usage across Sub-Saharan Africa. It will award grants to individuals or organisations who offer a sustainable approach to reducing the reliance on plastic that also supports the empowerment of women and girls.

25 semi-finalists will be selected in February 2022, each supported with a £25,000 grant and additional expert support to develop and validate their solution. From these semi-finalist, 10 finalists will be selected in June 2022, supported by a further £75,000 grant to implement their development plans. Finally in January 2023, three winners will be chosen, with first place being awarded with a further £750,000, second place awarded £250,000 and third place awarded £100,000.

Constance Agyeman.

Constance Agyeman, director of international development, Nesta Challenges, said: “Plastic pollution is a rapidly growing ecological disaster in Africa. The challenge the world faces is that plastic is actually quite useful – it’s cheap and lightweight, it keeps food fresh and gives people access to clean bottled water – yet managing it as a waste product is an increasingly urgent problem in Africa. The Afri-Plastics Challenge is seeking to support and grow solutions to reduce plastic in the packaging supply chain, or even better, eliminate it completely. If Africa’s innovators can develop solutions to drastically reduce the quantity of plastic being used in the first place, they will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be managed.”

In recent years, the demand for plastic has substantially increased in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 17 million tonnes of waste generated by the region annually, of which only 12% of plastic waste is recycled. While scaling plastic waste collection and recycling is crucial, it cannot solve the problem alone. The quantities of waste produced easily outpace the development of waste management systems and infrastructure, and recycling is still not an economically or technically viable option for several types of plastic.

The applicants’ ideas will be evaluated against criteria including  innovation, empowerment of women and girls, social impact, environmental impact and the applicants’ capability to achieve success.  In the long-term, the development of the innovators’ ideas will encourage the creation of new, sustainable local enterprises, bringing economic opportunity to these communities and contributing to poverty reduction.

Radiha Mtonga, Zambian social entrepreneur and member of the Afri-Plastics Challenge judging panel said: “It’s extremely exciting 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.”

The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in Sub-Saharan African countries by finding ways to minimise reliance on plastic, develop new ways of managing plastic waste, and/or develop new uses for plastic that has been discarded. This Challenge is designed for innovators and entrepreneurs across the African continent. The Challenge’s first strand, Accelerating Growth, which seeks to scale solutions to managing plastic waste was launched in July 2021 and it is ongoing.

Innovators from outside of Sub-Saharan Africa may apply for the Afri-Plastics Challenge as long as they are applying with a Sub-Saharan African partner who is the lead applicant. For more information and to apply for the Afri-Plastics Challenge Strand 2: Creating Solutions, click here. Applications close on Wednesday, 01 December 2021 1200 GMT.