Small-scale circular economy initiatives in Kenya will compete for $50,000 grants for a year for projects that aim to reduce the amount of plastic leaking into the marine environment.

A woman washes used plastic bags for re-use at the shores of a river on June 24, 2014 in Nairobi. Plastic pollution has become a global problem that is threatening the environment. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP 

The grant is part of $250,000 under an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) project dubbed Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities, which is being implemented in five countries that border the Indian Ocean — Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

The circular economy aims at minimising waste and getting economic reward out of resources that would otherwise go to waste.

In the region, only Kenya is in the circular economy as the rest are either upcycling or recycling projects.

“Many do not go the full extent to ensure that their products and materials are designed along the principles of a circular economy, where the recycled plastic or upcycled materials are designed to eliminate waste and pollution, keep the products and materials in several use cycles, and contribute to regeneration of natural systems,” said Peter Manyara, the regional project officer.

 The IUCN grant targets projects on marine environment and fosters co-operation and co-ordination between various stakeholders, including regulators, the private sector and civil society.

IUCN officials say the grant beneficiaries must prove enhanced plastic leakage reduction or avoidance along the plastic value chain, which includes production, transformation, waste and leakage.

In addition, beneficiaries must demonstrate how circular economy principles can be applied in practice and contribute to reduced or avoided leakage of plastics into the marine environment.

The projects targeting conservation of the Indian Ocean, must also capture lessons that can be replicated elsewhere to help others better develop sustainable plastic leakage reduction or avoidance measures.

As the world moves towards implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, experts argue the circular economy is key.

In March, SAP and Google Cloud put together funds to organise the Circular Economy 2030 contest, with $200,000 to be won.

The contest was supported by UN Environment, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data.

In 2015, research by Accenture estimated that a circular economy that increases social wellbeing and economic output while fostering a healthy environment could generate $4.5 trillion of new economic output by 2030.

Conservation experts warn that plastic pollution has become a global problem that is threatening the environment, health and economies.

“If we do not act now, the problem will only get worse,” says Ann Moey, communications lead, IUCN plastics programme.