The mismanagement of plastic waste, and resulting plastic pollution of the environment, has become an issue of global concern.
The ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’ study provided the first global, comprehensive assessment of pathways towards stopping ocean plastic pollution. South Africa, like most countries, is faced with growing plastic consumption and disposal, and with it, leakage of plastic into the terrestrial and aquatic environment. The Pathways tool, which evolved from the global study, is a modelling framework and software tool, developed by Professor Richard M Bailey (University of Oxford) in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts. This South African pilot study applied the Pathways tool to provide an evidence-based approach to improve plastics management and reduce plastic pollution of the environment. The Pathways tool enables the analysis of current and projected plastic material flows and models the effects of policies and strategies to reduce plastic pollution. In addition, the Pathways tool extends the global ‘Breaking the Plastic Wave’ analysis by providing an opportunity for multi-objective optimisation. This enables an optimal model for sustainability to be developed which fulfils the need to protect the environment and reduce plastic pollution, while also considering the socio-economic imperatives of employment creation and economic development, which are often constrained by high capital costs.
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