THE SMEP PLASTICS INTERVENTION
In 2021, the SMEP Programme designated up to £5 million to address plastics pollution in the target regions. An open procurement process was designed to identify practical plastics pollution mitigation solutions, which have the potential for adoption across SMEP target countries. The procurement process cast the net on potential solutions as widely as possible, with the launch of an open call for concepts in July 2021. The rationale and process for the procurement can be found in the information brochure for the procurement call.
The following ten projects were selected for funding. Nine projects are currently delivering on a second phase which focuses on demonstrating the long term feasibility of their solutions and potentials for uptake:
Broadly, the projects selected for SMEP funding are delivering on one or more of the following areas:
- Emergent or newly established raw materials technologies.
- Innovative product design solutions (which reconfigure or substitute articles prone to littering/dispersal).
- Inventions that prevent the leakage of raw materials from production and distribution operations across the focus countries.
- End-of-life solutions that channel waste feedstocks into remanufacturing and virgin plastics polymer displacement.
The overarching objectives of the SMEP Plastics Intervention are to have:
- Potential for market uptake and scaling (to gain market traction, solutions should be technically and economically viable to implement).
- Potential progress through technology readiness levels and overcome technical and other barriers to entry (e.g. regulatory, value chain, market perception).
- Potential to deliver additional social and economic benefits including, but not limited to, promoting technologies that are inclusive of the marginalised groups, gender-responsive and promoting capacity building and supporting local wealth creation.
Scoping Research performed by SEI-York for SMEP highlights the important connection between plastic pollution and manufacturing and flags this as an area for SMEP future research.
Since the 1950s, rapid growth in plastics production, trade and consumption has far outstripped waste management infrastructure and solutions available to address plastic waste, be it at the collection, recycling or disposal stage. Consequently, plastic pollution has emerged as a global crisis that requires urgent attention. Plastic pollution presents environmental (land, aquatic and marine) and societal health and economic challenges. Where waste management infrastructure is not well established, openly discarded plastic waste or poorly managed landfills lead to pervasive pollution that damages infrastructure, including roads, water and sanitation systems. This is particularly evident where heavy rain and flooding events are exacerbated by plastic blockages in stormwater architecture.
UNCTAD estimates that in 2018 global plastic trade reached USD 1 trillion. UNEP approximates the total natural capital cost of plastic littering damage to the marine ecosystems at USD 13 billion per year. While marine and terrestrial plastics pollution present a global challenge, it is particularly pressing in emerging economies which in many instances lack the resources and waste management infrastructure to address this growing problem. Many global initiatives have been instigated in response to this challenge.
The SMEP Programme’s plastics intervention aims to support activities that complement these initiatives and are implementing practical solutions, which focus countries could then adopt.