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Mobilising local communities to protect mangrove eco-systems from plastic pollution

Plastic is a global challenge facing many nations; however, the use and disposal of plastic affects Development Assistant Committee (DAC) countries disproportionally.

Their lack of adequate infrastructure, technology and financial incentives means that plastic ends up being discarded into the environment. In many instances the environmental, social and economic impacts of plastic waste are either not known or under-reported.

Professor Karl Williams, Director of the Centre of Waste Management at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), led on a project that worked with two high plastic polluting countries, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, in collaboration with Hanoi University of Natural Resource and Environment (Vietnam) and the University of Ruhuna (Sri Lanka). The research reviewed the effectiveness of current practices and applied any new evidence to improve community engagement in tackling coastal plastic waste. This method empowers marginalised groups to support coastal flood defences and mangrove preservation, engaging with those groups and communities most affected by plastic waste.

Two small-scale data collection activities took place in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. This activity was supported through a UK workshop and site visits, with the in-country evaluation of plastic waste’s impact was led by each country. This developed a greater understanding of the role thermal recovery of plastic could have, as a sustainable solution for dealing with plastic at a local community level. By examining emerging approaches and studying UCLan’s/Recycling Lives project’s experimental pyrolysis unit, the researchers from DAC countries were able to assess how an appropriate technology could fit with their local needs. This was supported by delegates from both Vietnam and Sri Lanka visiting the plant in the UK.

Professor Williams visited Sri Lanka and met with a range of stakeholders to support the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) bid and to promote community-led projects. Feedback from the countries informed the development of the UK workshop. Site visits were organised which reflected the needs identified by the delegates for their region and also commonality across DAC countries. Community groups in the UK were visited to support local community empowerment of disadvantaged citizens and this promoted discussion relevant to each country.