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Meet the young people creating jobs that #BeatPlasticPollution in Sierra Leone

18 Jun 2018 - Bashiru Brima, 21, is not your regular tailor. He makes bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while educating his people to reclaim waste.

18 Jun 2018 - Bashiru Brima, 21, is not your regular tailor. Living in the slum community of Cockle Bay, in Sierra Leone's capital city, he has been fashioning bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while educating his fellow villagers to reclaim waste rather than let it pile up.

“I learnt a lot. If we continue, the country will be clean. And this could be my own career.”

Basher Brima fashions bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse. © Lilah Gaafar

AN ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD

Plastic waste is a major problem in the slums bordering Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city. Water sachets (commonly used as drinking containers in the country), empty bottles and jerrycans litter the streets and clog up drains, causing flooding in disaster-prone areas.

There is no waste transfer center in Freetown. © Lilah Gaafar

Sierra Leone is among the top most vulnerable countries to climate change, and with an average rainfall of 3,600 litres (the equivalent of about 18 bathtubs) per square metre per year, flooding affects the country on a recurrent basis.

The devastating flash flooding and landslide that killed thousands in Freetown in August 2017 illustrates how the accumulation of plastics in drainage systems, compounded by poor city planning, exacerbates the problem. Last year’s flooding displaced 5,000 slum dwellers in Freetown alone and caused significant financial losses.

Plastic waste also poses public health issues, as blocked drainage causes water to stagnate and mosquitoes to breed in a region where malaria is endemic. In times of floods, water contaminated by mud and waste is washed into open drinking water wells and can lead to disease

Aftermath of the 2017 landslide. © Linnea Van Wagenen

Local residents line up for emergency help, after the 2017 landslide. © Caroline Thomas

Blocked drainage causes water to stagnate. © Alpha Sesay

Graves for the victims of the deadly 2017 landslide. © Alpha Sesay

UPCYCLING

There is no waste transfer center in Freetown, nowhere to sort garbage and separate what can be used for compost or recycling.

It costs 2,000 Leones to dispose of a rice bag of garbage, says UNDP’s Thorsten Kallnischkies, Geologist and Waste Management Expert.

As much as 80 % of Freetown’s waste could be recycled or used as compost.

Kallnischkies, who has worked on almost 200 dumpsites around the world, says recycling and removing garbage from the cities' overflowing drains saves people's money, while also tackling youth unemployment.

Cleaning the drains that plastics and trash keep blocking. © Lilah Gaafar

Turning plastic into tiles. © Lilah Gaafar

With a 400,000 $ budget, UNDP Sierra Leone launched a skills training on waste recycling for 150 youths (120 women and 30 men) in 8 slum communities around Freetown, with the aim to empower them financially and ultimately allow them to afford decent housing out of the slums.

The project works with local women’s organizations, providing funds to mobilize the communities, establishing waste management committees, and equipping participants with cleanup tools and storage for raw materials. With UNDP support, the associations also develop strategies with plastic producing companies for safe disposal.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://stories.undp.org/solving-freetowns-waste-problem

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A tidal wave of plastic

11 Jun 2018 - The journey of plastic to the ocean is marked by opportunities to change course.

11 Jun 2018Two decades ago, a deep sea submersible descended into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

In the middle of the Western Pacific, at a depth of 10,988 metres, it encountered a lone plastic bag. Scientists believe it’s the world’s deepest known piece of plastic rubbish. And it will take 400 to 1,000 years to disintegrate.

Ten thousand metres above, the ocean’s surface is similarly littered. You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This floating cluster of discarded plastic covers an estimated 1.6 million square kilometres, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

The impact of so much plastic pollution in the ocean is detrimental to marine wildlife, to the planet and to humans. UN Environment puts the economic costs at roughly  US$13 billion per year, including clean-up costs and financial losses in fisheries and other industries.

A problem on this scale may seem daunting, but that giant island of garbage in the Pacific is made up of individual pieces of plastic that wound up in the ocean through a series of deliberate actions. As we trace the journey of plastic to the ocean, we can see how human actions at every step along the way could bring about a sea change.

Before a piece of plastic reaches open water, before it sinks to the ocean floor, it likely is deposited somewhere along our coastlines. Every year, up to 13 million tonnes of plastic reaches the ocean. That is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute, according to UN Environment.

Plastic is especially lethal to coral reef systems. Healthy coral reefs are the nurseries of the underwater world, nurturing an astonishing array of living organisms. They protect over 150,000 km of shoreline in 100 countries and territories, safeguarding coastal communities from heavy storm surges, winds and waves. A recent study found that, when corals come in contact with plastic, the likelihood of disease shoots up from 4 percent to 90 percent.

“People shouldn’t teach their garbage to swim."

Ellen McRaye is a marine biologist in Belize, where visitors come for spectacular snorkelling and scuba diving in the Blue Hole and the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. For the past 40 years, Ellen has witnessed the disappearance of pollutant-filtering mangrove forests and fish due to unsustainable tourism and other practices, like overfishing or dumping untreated sewage into coral reef nurseries.

Through UNDP’s Small Grants Programme, Ellen and a few volunteers were able to update an old boat with a modern motor and rehabilitate a centre to educate visitors on sustainable tourism. They tend to the health of mangrove nurseries in the Caye Caulker Forest and Marine Reserve and do weekly clean-ups of the coastal garbage that chokes and kills mangrove saplings. They also collect data that enable local governments to make decisions to protect the future of the country’s economic lifeline, the Belize Barrier Reef.

Volunteers are making a huge impact in Belize and around the world. In Lebanon, hundreds of youth have turned up to lend a hand in a series of coastal clean-ups. With every disused tote, toy or tyre dragged from the beach or dredged out of the sea, these young people are sending  a strong message about the need for change.

Rivers are the express highways for our plastic litter.

Coastal garbage, the global fishing sector, freight shipping, tourism and illegal dumping of plastic waste all contribute to plastic pollution in the open ocean. But one of the largest sources of ocean plastic are  rivers that connect to cities and towns inland. About a third the global population live along the banks of the  world’s top 122 polluting rivers.

Giving tourists a nudge

Nestled in the valley of the Terelj River, Gorkhi-Terelj National park is Mongolia's largest tourist attraction. It is seeing a steady 8.5 percent rise in overnight campers and day visitors every year. Last year, the park received 140,000 tourists. As the park's fame rose, during peak tourism season, park rangers were cleaning up four tonnes of waste daily.

UNDP and park officials are experimenting with an innovative approach to the problem. Working with Australia-based Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), the initiative seeks to "nudge" positive behaviour to prevent plastic pollution and littering at key points throughout visitors' journey in the park.

Once heralded as an innovation, the plastic bag was welcomed most by city dwellers. Durable and convenient, plastic is the perfect vehicle for the demands of urban life.

But 86 percent of the plastic packaging that is produced globally is not recycled, according to  McKinsey & Company. That means a plastic bag used to carry a single item from the supermarket will be around for several generations.

By 2030, two thirds of people in the world will live in cities. Most of the world’s megacities are located near coastlines and river deltas. With the global population poised to reach 9.7 billion in the next three decades, cities will be the battleground for beating plastic pollution.

"What we do is for the future."

In Arequipa, Peru's second largest city, 49-year-old Gregoria Cruz doesn't just recycle garbage, she re-imagines it. She works for Recicla Vida, an association of recyclers, mainly women who are spreading a recycling culture in their city. The women collect about 400 kg of waste every day.

Formalizing their roles as the city's official recyclers has helped to gain visibility and recognition in a city where they once lived and worked on the margins of society. "We are official recyclers, we help to take care of the environment we live in," Gregoria says. "What we do is for the future."

Individual action alone will not stop the tidal wave of plastic pollution in the ocean. Governments, businesses and all the sectors that work with plastic can make the biggest impact by investing in sustainable alternatives.

Where do we start? By examining our relationship with plastic.

Costa Rica has taken a bold step by laying out a plan to completely eliminate single-use plastics. In Moldova, they are starting with the ubiquitous plastic bag. Students are busily researching alternatives as the country works on a two-year roadmap to phase out plastic bags.

Mariana and Octavian are studying urbanism and architecture at the Technical University of Moldova. They’re researching behavioural insights that would make the transition smooth for both customers and selling points. Theirs is a work in progress, and the duo aims to present their solutions at an upcoming innovation camp that UNDP Moldova will host as part of an initiative of the Innovation Facility. 

UNDP is also working with governments worldwide on business solutions for sustainable waste management. For instance, the Government of Kenya is developing a  circular economy approach to waste management in urban areas.

Instead of sending all refuse to the dump, this circular economy approach to waste management adds new points in Kenya’s value chain. In the future, 90 percent of collected waste will go to these new points, which include recycling sites, composting facilities and organic waste treatment centres.

In any given moment, there are 1 million plastic bags in use around the world. Each one has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 minutes before it is discarded. These and other single-use items – plastic cups, water bottles and food packaging – make up 89 percent of plastic litter identified on the floor of the ocean.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 focuses on preserving the health of the ocean; beating plastic pollution is critical to this effort to ensure ocean health and human health.

How can you help?

Picture your day. Start with your morning routine. Toothbrush. Shower. Work. School. Lunch. Shopping.

Now, picture yourself going through your day without a single piece of plastic. Can you do it?

We depend on plastic. It permeates all parts of modern life. But you can help make sure the plastic you use doesn’t make the journey to the bottom of the ocean. The old three-point plan still holds water: Reduce drastically the amount of single-use plastics you use; switch to containers and other convenience items that can you can reuse; and recycle what you no longer need.

As you journey through your day, take a closer look at your choices when it comes to plastic. And consider how every little action can help turn the tide for plastic pollution.

CONTINUE READING: https://feature.undp.org/plastic-tidal-wave/

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Call for Ocean Action Volunteers

8 Jun 2018 - In celebration of World Oceans Day, a global campaign is being launched by UNDP and partners to invite people from all walks of life, to volunteer to take action.

8 Jun 2018 - In celebration of World Oceans Day, a global campaign is being launched by UNDP and partners to invite people from all walks of life, to volunteer to take action and continue the momentum towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.  

The new Ocean Action Campaign announcement was made today, on the occasion of the one year anniversary of the first-ever global UN conference dedicated to the ocean, held in 2017 in New York City, co-hosted by the Governments of Sweden and Fiji.  The new campaign will steer volunteers to foster local actions and initiatives to #SaveOurOcean. The Ocean Action Hub, a public interactive knowledge platform created by UNDP and Sweden in support of The Ocean Conference, will host the campaign.

Ambassador Olof Skoog, the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations said, "We really appreciate the new UNDP campaign, engaging volunteers around the world to push for more commitments on SDG14. The focus on volunteers highlights that we all have a responsibility to make changes to our habits and consumption patterns. This is why we at the Swedish UN Mission have made a commitment to step up our environmental efforts. We will minimize the use of single use plastics and challenge others to do the same. Several other UN Missions have already joined the initiative. All actions count." 

The key objectives of the campaign are to boost the implementation of existing voluntary commitments pledged at the 2017 Ocean Conference and the number of new commitments to help achieve SDG 14. To date, over 1,400 voluntary commitments from governments, multilaterals, local communities, companies, academia and civil society organizations have been registered.

“We also want to emphasize that the importance of fulfilling voluntary commitments made during the Ocean Conference last year. And I would also like to highlight that the list is not closed. There is still opportunity for stakeholders to announce pledges on the protection of our oceans, and what better day to do so than the Ocean Day?” Ambassador Skoog further stated. 

Ocean covers nearly three quarters of the Earth’s surface and contributes substantially to human development, provision of food security, transport, energy supply, tourism and many of the planet’s most critical needs, including climate regulation and oxygen production. Yet, today it is estimated that 40 percent of our oceans are heavily affected by unsustainable practices, including over-fishing, land-based sources of pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change, particularly ocean acidification.

SDG-14 targets are very ambitious and likely to be missed by many countries if a big push does not take place globally by both countries and individuals as many targets of the goal have a deadline of 2020.

The Ocean Action Hub has a global membership of over 315,000 participants. Humanity’s ability to understand the critical role of our ocean for people and the planet, and the power of human action in reversing the degradation of ocean ecosystems, will be key to achieving a sustainable future.

Volunteerism at the heart of ocean action

The Ocean Action Campaign will be implemented with support from volunteers registered on the Ocean Action Hub and online volunteers assigned through the UNV Online Volunteering service. A core group of volunteers will work closely with UNDP in connecting local organizations and interested individuals with the Ocean Action Hub to register their ocean actions in the Voluntary Commitments registry. Other volunteers will be working online, boosting the registration and creation of new SDG14 voluntary commitments.

Volunteers can help in unlimited ways, including inter alia by sharing relevant information on the ocean and the SDG 14 with their school, offices, neighborhoods; and by assisting local organizations and communities to take action and share their activities through the Ocean Action Hub.

Get involved!

Contact us to know more and become an Ocean Action Volunteer today.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/news-centre/news/2018/call-for-...

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Leveraging the Blue Economy for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth

The policy brief provides reflections on the necessary policies that should be implemented to leverage the blue economy for sustainable development and inclusive growth in Kenya and Eastern Africa region.

The blue economy has a great potential to contribute to higher and faster GDP growth in Kenya. Innovation and growth in the coastal, marine and maritime sector could deliver food, energy, transport, among other products and services and serve as a foundation for sustainable development in Kenya. Diversifying the country’s economy beyond land-based activities and along its coastal, marine and maritime sector is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This is especially important in the context of the accelerated growth that the country is experiencing without any concomitant reduction in poverty.

This policy brief aims to raise awareness of the importance of the blue economy to Kenya. It does this by defining the blue economy and its components to show how Kenya can leverage the blue economy’s forward and backward linkages with the various sectors of the economy. The policy brief provides reflections on the necessary policies that should be implemented to leverage the blue economy for sustainable development and inclusive growth in Kenya and Eastern Africa region. It also serves as a building block for further development of policies to support the blue economy in the region.

This policy brief is an input to Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that will be hosted jointly by Kenya and Canada in Kenya, 26-28 November 2018.

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3 lessons from a small innovative centre supporting big ocean states

10 May 2018 - I love working for islands, and not just because of their nature, people and weather. Islands are the canaries in the coal mine for how we treat our planet.

10 May 2018 - I love working for islands, and not just because of their nature, people and weather. Islands are the canaries in the coal mine for how we treat our planet. They are not responsible for climate change, but bear the brunt of its impact.

Islands may be “big ocean states”, but their small size poses challenges: over-dependency on food and energy imports and on a few economic sectors like tourism. The so-called “brain drain” of talent makes it even tougher to manage its cost and waste. As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face similar challenges, it only makes sense that solutions are shared, to do more with less and not reinvent wheels. Also, due to their constraints, islands are laboratories for sustainable solutions for the rest of the world.  We need to bridge these islands of knowledge!

This is where UNDP’s Centre of Excellence for SIDS (COE) comes in. It is a relatively young initiative, launched by the Government of Aruba and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I became its manager in 2016 after 10 years at the World Bank Group in Washington, DC.

The COE helps SIDS with their sustainable development challenges. We facilitate knowledge flows in sustainability, innovation and resilience in ways that our audience of policymakers prefer. Using innovative approaches and leveraging our network, we manage to do a lot with a little, all for a positive impact on islands. It often reminds me of Churchill’s quote: “Now that we have run out of money, we have to think.” So here is my thinking: 3 lessons on how we’ve managed to do more with less. Hopefully it can inspire organizations, small and large, to rethink approaches in development:

1.       Focus on knowledge demand

I believe that the smaller you are, the more demand-driven, innovative you need to be to add value. With limited resources, the margin for error (read: supply-driven knowledge) is small. Yes, all SDGs are equal, but for islands, some are more equal than others, such as SDG 14 on oceans, and SDG 7 on energy. So when close to 30 SIDS attended our inaugural training on Aruba, we asked what topics were top-of-mind. In all our offerings, we address that demand, such as our case study on the world’s most sustainable resort, or our side-event at the Ocean Conference. We often don’t need to be the expert on these topics, but rather play the role of knowledge broker. And it helps to be based on an island, to personally see the latest developments, such as waste solutions, wind farms and marine parks. For example, Aruba has appointed a national Chief Innovation Officer, an interesting development for other SIDS to watch.

2.     Leverage complementary networks

For all activities, we first ask: has anyone done this before? If so, let’s talk. If not, let’s find a partner with similar objectives and complimentary skills, so we can be an enabler of solutions for islands. This way we could deliver an online course on sustainable energy for SIDS policymakers with a small budget. We partnered with Hamburg University which had an existing course that we tailored to our audience. Close to 400 people participated in our course. We have partnered with applied research firm TNO to provide in-country assistance in renewable energy, sustainable tourism and waste management in Antigua, Jamaica, Seychelles, and Vanuatu. And to leverage private sector financing, we recently partnered with Ernst & Young, who shared the costs to deliver a Build Back Better week on St. Maarten. Collaborating to leverage others’ complementary skills should be the new normal in development.

3. Create smart, fun combinations

To stand out among the giant institutions in development, we must do things differently. For example, the St. Maarten event combined a hackathon for resilience with youth engagement and trade missions from other islands. This greatly enriched the event from a knowledge perspective and demonstrated that serious topics can be addressed in fun and engaging way. The event was more an unconference than a UN-conference, as strangers formed teams and worked for 48 hours to come up with solutions for a more resilient island. The winning team (of a total of 21) “Green Box” proposed an app for tracking and rewarding people for recycling their waste. It was inspiring, and at times emotional, as many attendees had suffered through the hurricanes, including the Prime Minister, who went off-script with personal reflections, after delivering her prepared speech.

These three lessons allow us to be demand-driven and do relatively much with limited resources. So what’s the biggest challenge? It’s time. Time to find partners to scale what we have done, and for us to adopt and leverage what others have done. So let’s talk, and bridge islands of knowledge!

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/3-lessons-from-a-smal...

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Join Gael, a 10-year old surfer from Rio, to help #SaveOurOcean

Gael, a 10-year old surfer from #Rio, is collecting litter from the beaches to help #SaveOurOcean.

Gael, a 10-year old surfer from #Rio, is collecting litter from the beaches to help #SaveOurOcean. Join the Ocean Action Hub now.

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Oceans 101: Ocean Acidification ft. Cody Simpson

UNDP Ocean Advocate, Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, talks about the chemical reactions that occur when CO2 is absorved by sea water.

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Oceans 101: Habitat Loss ft. Cody Simpson

UNDP Ocean Advocate, Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, talks about the factors that cause the destruction of marine habitats.

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Oceans 101: Invasive Species ft. Cody Simpson

UNDP Ocean Advocate, Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, explains how invasive species are harmful to marine life.

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Oceans 101: Nutrient Pollution ft. Cody Simpson

UNDP Ocean Advocate, Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, explains what nutrient pollution is and the risk it poses to marine life.