How might African countries make the transition to a circular economy for plastics?

There is no denying that plastic is one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century. Across Africa, for example, it’s been fundamental for the provision of safe food and drinking water. The problem, however, is that in most African countries the infrastructure does not exist to manage plastics effectively, and plastics producers have for the most part left the state and public to deal with the expense of addressing the harm these products cause. This is complicated by the fact that recycled plastics must compete with subsidised virgin plastics, the price of which is set on the global market and strongly linked to global oil prices. To develop a sustainable business model, companies working with plastic waste must find a way to add value to the material. This means exploiting not just conventional mechanical recycling, but other ways of valorising the waste. 

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