Researchers support global management of plastic waste

25 Sep 2020 Kateřina Šebková

The management of plastics and plastic waste is a global  problem which requires extensive collaboration among several disciplines and different parts of the world to come up with adequate solutions to reduce the impact of plastics in the aquatic environment. The Ocean Plastics Charter 6 (2018) highlighted a need to promote collaboration on research to identify the sources and fate of plastics along with their impact on the environment including human health. Such collaborations have been established in some areas of the world such as Europe, Africa, and India however they need to be improved elsewhere. 

The RECETOX, Masaryk University, Czech Republic is a large university department with a broad network of international partners and collaborators. Its activities cover university education, research linking environment and health and science to policy transfer. The centre also hosts the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre for Capacity Building and the Transfer of Technology that has a role in sharing information and expertise with other countries, organizes trainings and translates advances in research into practice for more than a decade. It cooperates regularly with more than 30 countries and many research networks worldwide. Fate and transport of chemicals in environmental matrices and their effects on human health have been investigated for more than three decades and end of life products including plastics are an issue of concern. We participated  in several projects identifying the scope of contamination in the aquatic environment and marine organisms. 

In summer 2018, a group of researchers from various universities in Chile established a SPLACH network (Scientific Plastic Pollution Alliance in Chile) on microplastics in oceans and they work hard to raise awareness locally and nationally on lessons learned and effects of plastics on environment and human health. Their aim is to induce change in management of plastics in their country and in Latin America. 

The two institution joined forces and the RECETOX supported the SPLACH network and the university of San Sebastian in Chile in organizing an international online workshop in summer 2020 (21 July 2020 - 19 August 2020). There were 10 sessions and 45 speakers who shared their experience with participants. The English and Spanish lectures covered plastic related chemistry, biology, ecology, ecotoxicology, and a general overview of circular economy approaches. The lectures combined disciplines, shared the most recent expertise, research outputs and also practical issues such as challenges, risks but also provided solutions. The workshop was advertised in universities, research networks but also across  authorities and decision making bodies at local, national and regional levels and among industry stakeholders that work with plastics.  

One of organizers and moderator of the workshop, Karla Pozo PhD from RECETOX, happily announced: The workshop preparations were demanding but it was a huge success. We had  broad participation from all stakeholder groups (450 participants in total) from 15 countries ( nine in the Latin America - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Perú, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, El Salvador, Ecuador and then Canada and Europe). There were always 80-90 participants at each lecture and they experienced many lively discussions after each session. We have witnessed industry and local and regional authorities discovering plastic wastes management and workable solutions as well as measures adopted globally. Despite that the measures and tools exist for a number of years, many participants heard them for the first time and their enthusiasm in discovering ways forward and potential for collaboration was very rewarding.” She also emphasized that ministry officials and industry representatives present in the workshop called for a continuous communication and information flow as the workshop introduced many useful and practical tools and existing guidance materials available in languages from international organizations. 

These results motivated us to prepare a follow-up project proposal and to organize another online workshop in English and Spanish covering plastic waste management in spring and autumn 2021. We wish thereby promoting  the best practices in the environmentally sound management of plastic waste at the global, regional and national levels. The workshop strives to prevent, and minimize plastic waste generationallow for  cooperation among all actors and disseminate the latest knowledge and information prepared in support of sound management of plastic waste. The materials will be available free of charge and translated in different languages. Their content will build upon work of the Basel Convention, research activities in the field but also will capture lessons learned and practical examples for different actors. We are also including challenges and the best practices in the plastic waste management imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide and will expand on needs, challenges and potential opportunities for the plastic markets. 

The researchers got together to make a difference in plastic waste management. Help them to succeed and join our workshop in 2021. 

See the programme: HERE

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