Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science principal marine litter scientist Thomas Maes explains the CLiP programme to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan, in Cape Town this week. Photo: Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Cape Town – Marine litter scientists from the UK kicked-off work in South Africa this week to tackle plastic pollution in the ocean in the hopes of reducing reliance on single-use plastics, improving waste management and moving towards a more circular economy for plastics.

Experts from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), part of the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), have partnered with the South African government and research colleagues in the country to identify solutions to problems posed by marine litter.

The Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) launched with a community beach outreach event in Cape Town on Tuesday, where Cefas scientists demonstrated scientific monitoring techniques and held an exhibition on marine litter challenges and solutions.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Meghan, who are on a tour of South Africa, met Cefas’s principal marine litter scientist Thomas Maes during the event to hear more about the CLiP programme and approaches to tackling marine litter internationally.

In recent years, the serious issue of marine litter and plastic pollution has been recognised by international governments and organisations, as well as local communities, as a growing threat to the marine environment and people’s livelihoods.

The programme is working with colleagues in the South African government, regional organisations, academia and community groups, to carry out scientific monitoring and to develop ideas and actions which support existing efforts and will enable them to further achieve their ambitions on tackling plastic pollution.

UK International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said: “It is fantastic to see world-leading UK scientists joining their Commonwealth counterparts and sharing expertise in the international fight to tackle the plastic waste that devastates our marine environment.”

Maes said the centre was delighted to be collaborating with government and other organisations.

“Cefas has international expertise and experience in marine litter science and policy which we are pleased to share with South Africa, and other partner nations, to help address the problem.”

South Africa is the fourth country to be involved in the CLiP work and the team will bring their experiences from the previous phases of the programme which took place in the two South Pacific island nations of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, and more recently in Belize, in the Caribbean.

Scientists will be in the region until December, working with local colleagues and stakeholders to monitor litter, clean beaches, set up a microplastics laboratory and raise awareness of actions which can be taken.