Cape Town - Marine conservation volunteer group Strandloper Project, which researched and highlighted the damage plastic pollution caused to the coastal environment of South Africa, launched a first-of-its-kind Plastic Capture competition to come up with new ways to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that lands in the ocean.
“Every day, plastic is flowing into our natural environment at an unprecedented rate. Of the 200 million tons of plastic waste produced worldwide every year, 11 million tons end up in our oceans,” said the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Through their research, project leader Mark Dixon said they had found that more than 85% of plastics documented were terrestrial origin plastics – plastics that came from urban centres in industrial, wealthy and low-income areas which were flushed out during rain periods and through various municipal infrastructures such as sewerage works and storm water drains.
Dixon said this meant that whatever methods were currently in place were not enough to prevent this plastic from reaching the ocean. That is why they came up with the competition.
“One of the biggest problems we have is that our municipal infrastructure and systems were constructed before plastic became such a prevalent storage item and in use so often in society,” Dixon said.
Strandloper Project co-ordinator Kim de Jager said the winning design would be one that intercepted plastic debris at the outlet of storm water drains and diverted it away from the flow of the water, making it safe and simple to empty, even in flood conditions.
This would also reduce the risk of plastic escaping the system and reaching the ocean.
“We are looking for original thinkers, problem solvers and aspiring ocean heroes to be part of the movement to reduce land-sourced ocean plastic. Invitations have been sent to South African universities with a request to share these with students of civil engineering. However, we haven’t limited entry to these students as the ideal design solution could come from anyone,” said De Jager.
De Jager said engaging people who might not usually get to work on a problem like this would hopefully produce some out-of-the-box thinking.
She encouraged people to make submissions before April 28 and compete for the cash prize of R25 000.
“Each entrant must submit an engineering design document describing their proposed innovation, including specific and detailed construction drawings. The five best designs will be selected to move through to round two.
“Shortlisted entrants will be required to engineer a scaled proof-of-concept of their design. This will be submitted by means of a short video presentation which will include a demonstration of the design under test conditions,” De Jager said.
The link to the entry form and submission upload page, as well as more information about the competition, can be found at www.strandloperproject.org/competition.html