In February this year, SOLVE was thrilled to announce that against stiff competition, The Litterboom Project had won our inaugural Plastics Innovation and Circularity Challenge. We’ve long been fans of The Litterboom Project’s work, starting with the beguilingly simple floating booms that collect ocean-bound floating waste, mostly plastics, from rivers. The Litterboom teams then pull this plastic to the river bank, sort it, and take it away.
However, their winning pitch in our Challenge wasn’t around this fantastic but familiar technology. Rather, it related to The Litterboom Project’s establishment of an Innovation Hub, which is both a training resource and development space for “wastepreneurs” – people who upcycle waste into useful, higher-value products. This Innovation Hub adds to the offtaker market for collected waste, keeping the value of plastics in the system, and at the same time making it more viable to earn a living from waste reclamation.
Today (June 8th), World Oceans Day, their proof of concept hits the stores: the first set of products coming out of The Litterboom Project’s Innovation Hub are being launched as part of Mr Price Home’s Sustainable Style Collection. This collection showcases the transformative potential of plastic pollution by turning it into home decor items. Along the way, it supports increased interception within the rivers; and enables wastepreneur activities.
On a systems level, one potential impact of the Innovation Hub is to increase the value of waste, providing greater economic incentives for wastepreneurs, reclaimers and buyback centres within the value chain. In turn, this mitigates the leakage of plastic into the environment. As more corporates and producers support this and similar initiatives, we can together create a significant improvement in infrastructure, increase support to reclamation efforts, and join in a concerted push towards a viable economic model that accurately portrays the real cost of collecting plastic from the environment.
The Litterboom Project’s commitment is that it will continue identifying more opportunities for products locally made from plastics taken from rivers, coastlines, and communities grappling with significant pollution problems. It would welcome connection with any organisation that is committed to ocean conservation, education and innovation; and similarly, any entities seeking to offset their plastic footprint through a registered Producer Responsibility Organisation while contributing to meaningful social impact. You can reach them here.
World Oceans Day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to protect and preserve marine ecosystems as well as the need to drastically reduce the volume of single-use plastic being produced, and to create sustainable employment in the oceans economy. Positive change needs more than individual effort; it also needs innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration. SOLVE celebrates this collaboration and joins in the efforts to create a cleaner, healthier, and more prosperous future for our oceans and the communities that depend on them.
The Plastics Innovation and Circularity Challenge is a joint initiative of SOLVE@Waterfront; the UK-South Africa Tech Hub, an initiative of the UK Government; and Ocean Hub Africa. See here for more information about the initiative.