Sustainable Plastic Attitudes to benefit Communities and their Environments (SPACES)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Biological and Environmental Sciences

Abstract

Between 400,000 and 1 million people die each year in LMICs due to diseases related to mismanaged waste. Waste management is, however, a complex area, which affects multiple stakeholders, such as manufacturers, distributors, retailers, households, the recycling industry, informal waste pickers and local governments, and therefore requires an integrated approach.

Malawi and Tanzania are two of the world's poorest countries, yet the consumption of plastics has exploded in the last decade. Tanzania and Malawi make important case-study countries because of their recent governmental responses to plastic bags, and their contrasting policy landscapes in terms of tackling plastic wastes. In many cities in sub-Saharan Africa, plastic wastes, and plastic bags in particular, block urban drainage systems. During rain events this leads to localised flooding, with an increased risk of human exposure to raw sewage and the spread of waterborne pathogens within highly populated areas. Plastic waste can also act as a transient receptacle for rainwater and thus provide a larval habitat for mosquitoes. Therefore, the negative impacts of plastic pollution on human health can include the spread of pathogens such as cholera and typhoid, and the provision of transient receptacles for breeding mosquitoes that can carry diseases such as malaria and Zika virus. In parallel, the consequences of living with significant levels of environmental plastic pollution can negatively affect mental health and well-being. However, despite wide-scale recognition of the need for LMIC governments to invest more thoroughly in solid waste management, this remains a low funding priority area, with fragmented responsibility between departments and a lack of time or technical expertise to negotiate suitable waste management strategies. Typically, governments, communities and individuals in sub-Saharan countries prioritise health-care, and food and water security, followed by employment, education and housing. Plastic pollution rarely registers as something important enough to re-direct valuable resources away from these more pressing challenges. However, we argue that waste management is inextricably linked to health and should not be treated as a separate issue. By characterising how people interact with plastics on a day-by-day basis, the SPACES project will provide the framework needed to build circular economies with improved, more sustainable development pathways and new economic opportunities, and have far-reaching implications for human health and well-being, ecosystem services and economic stability in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

Quantitative and qualitative mixed methods approaches will be developed to understand what socioeconomic and political obstacles exist for incentivising governments to remove plastic waste and increase sustainable waste disposal. Novel strategies for intervention, mitigation and sustainable adaptation by local communities will be co-developed using extensive behavioural economics and anthropological methods in tandem with environmental, biological, epidemiological and geographical approaches. Working with a range of local recycling associations and entrepreneurs, together with local government and council leaders, the SPACES project will provide both the evidence and incentives that will allow individuals, communities, business leaders and national decision-makers to foster a sustained change in attitudes for tackling the challenges of plastic waste in the environment. In turn delivering a step change towards enabling a cleaner, more resilient and more productive environment.
 
Description SFC-GCRF Covid 19 urgency call: "Sustainable waste management and Covid-19: an opportunity to build resilience into the livelihoods of waste pickers"
Amount £30,650 (GBP)
Funding ID ST00085 
Organisation Government of Scotland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2021 
End 03/2022
 
Description Malawi - Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme 
Organisation Wellcome Trust
Department Malawi-Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme
Country Malawi 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Academic staff at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme are partners in the original application
Collaborator Contribution Co-writing of the original proposal
Impact Submission of original proposal
Start Year 2020
 
Description Malawi - Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences 
Organisation University of Malawi
Country Malawi 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Academic staff at the University of Malawi are partners in the original application
Collaborator Contribution Co-writing of the original proposal
Impact Submission of original proposal
Start Year 2020
 
Description Tanzania - University of Dar es Salaam 
Organisation University of Dar es Salaam
Country Tanzania, United Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Academic staff at the University of Dar es Salaam are partners in the original application
Collaborator Contribution Co-writing of the original proposal
Impact Submission of original proposal
Start Year 2020
 
Description Live radio talk show (four sessions) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Live radio talk show on Umoyo Nkukambilana in Blantyre, Malawi (conducted in the local language Chichewa).
Four live sessions on consecutive Saturdays specifically introducing and discussing the project and general issues of plastic waste and disposal and pathogen transfer. The live shows included phone-in questions from the community. The last of the shows included community advisory groups in the studio to share their perceptions/concerns.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Overview of project objectives with community representatives and village chiefs in Ndirande, Blantyre, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact To share an overview of the study and how it will be conducted within the community. Audience included:
? Village Chiefs
? Business community
? Women groups
? Youth groups
? Religious groups
? Community Police Forum
? CAG members
? Blantyre City representatives (Waste management) - Ndirande
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Overview of the project with schools and student science clubs, Ndirande, Blantyre, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact To share an overview of the study and how schools can help share information about the study through their students.
To discuss how students can be involved through science clubs and field visits.
Attendees included:
? SHEN Coordinators, BT DEM and SWED
? Headteachers
? Science club patrons
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Update on project objectives with environmental health officials, Ndirande Health Centre, Blantyre, Malawi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact To share and discuss how the study will be conducted in the local community.
Attendees included:
? HSAs
? Health Centre In-Charge
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021