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Curbing plastic crisis a priority in climate efforts

 Dr. Humphrey Agevi, researcher and lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST). [File, Standard]

Despite Kenya banning single-use plastics in July 2019, this has not solved the problem. Concerted efforts from all stakeholders, therefore, are needed if biodiversity has to be secured for posterity. For instance, experts warn that if the current rates of pollution are uncontrolled, there will be more plastic fish in the oceans by 2050.

This year’s World Environment Day (June 5) theme will focus on solutions to plastic pollution under the campaign #BeatPlasticPollution. Urgent action is needed to curb the plastic crisis that pollutes the land, flows into rivers and ends up in lakes and oceans.

Solving plastic problems is part of solving the climate problem and hence reducing biodiversity loss. The application of science, innovation and technology should be supported and adopted as an alternative to the plastic pollution problem. There is a need to support and implement legislation to curb plastic production and use.

Ocean clean-up events are excellent examples of collective action. New skills, knowledge, and education can help greatly in creating enduring and sustainable solutions and developing systems in which communities can turn such waste into wealth. Education will change human behaviour and will make them stop throwing plastics into rivers and rather dispose of them in designated areas.

Green classrooms concept if adopted and environmentally oriented primary education which for the Kenyan case is the CBC will instill good environmental habits and behaviours and ultimately impact change to parents and guardians and neighbours in the communities that these children come from.

Education is likely to equip the young generation who are likely to have more prolonged effects of this menace with skills that will eventually help them develop innovative solutions to the plastic pollution aspects. Tertiary education in this case colleges, TVET institutions, and universities will be critical here. Training in climate change and forms of pollution and universities-industries linkages can greatly stimulate innovation, and help build education pathways between the technical environments, climate jobs, and tertiary education. New skills for green jobs which are not common in developing countries will offer opportunities for the youth.

Through education, there will be the promotion of innovation which can contribute to the expansion of green infrastructure solutions and equip the youth with skills to build environmentally friendly energy efficient and climate-resilient materials and renewable options. Other approaches could be sustainable consumption behaviour guidance, pollution prevention education for the public, and effective and permanent resolutions of plastic pollution in the future.

Science-based solutions and emerging technologies like the application of satellite systems can help to monitor plastic concentration by measuring water. This provide will huge contribution to further research on the effects of microplastics on the ecosystems, help organisations and governments clean up the sea and after that protect marine life. Investment in the production of the plastic-eating enzyme called Ideonella Sakainsis 201-F6, a bacteria that can digest plastics. Use of nanotechnology can be used in the breakdown of plastics without causing harm to marine life.

Elimination of plastic pollution will take quite some time for it to be completely eliminated. The limited science-based technology to eliminate the same should be expanded and supported further through investing in research in the same faculty and applied areas.

— The writer is a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST). 

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