Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution Programme

UK Aid Partnering With UNCTAD To Tackle Plastics Pollution

UK Aid is providing up to £5 million for research and development on tackling plastics pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. This is part of the five-year Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP) programme (2019-2024), implemented in partnership with the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which supports innovative solutions to prevent manufacturing and plastics pollution from being released into the environment.

Following a competitive process, ten projects kicked off in January 2022 for the first phase of delivery, which focuses on proving feasibility.

The SMEP programme goes beyond plastics recycling and includes scope for upstream solutions to plastics pollution, i.e. materials substitution or biodegradation of plastics. The projects were selected based on their strong potential to:

  • significantly reduce plastics waste in the environment by introducing new, innovative solutions;
  • gain market traction;
  • overcome challenges to enter the market;
  • deliver in SMEP focus countries; and,
  • enhance benefits for people and livelihoods.

The projects selected for SMEP Funding:

To find out more about the SMEP Programme and follow updates, please keep an eye on our website, including the plastic’s page.

Contact the SMEP Programme Management Agent:

Additional context:

The issue of plastic pollution entering ecosystems has become a significant environmental issue, acting as a health, economic and social drag, especially in developing countries. At the national level, solutions involve multiple dimensions, such as material substitution, better manufacturing patterns, policy incentives, as well as promoting and upscaling innovation. Social dimensions are an equally important consideration, therefore, formalizing women’s participation in better manufacturing and waste management decisions could significantly contribute to the fight against plastic pollution.

This has been highlighted in recent reports, released by the United Nations (UN), Drowning in PlasticsEnabling concerted multilateral action on plastic pollution and plastic substitutes, and From Pollution to Solution, issued in 2021.

Featured Photo: Naja Bertolt Jensen,

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