Afri-Plastics Challenge winners take home US$4.97M for their invention to curb plastic pollution

AFRICA –  Afri-Plastics Challenge, organized by Challenge Works and the Government of Canada has awarded £4.1 million (US$4.97m) to innovators with scalable innovations that tackle plastic waste in Africa and reduce the volume of pollution making its way to the ocean.

Among the winners is Togo’s Green Industry Plast (GIP-TOGO) – a recycling business that helps households earn a living through waste plastic collection and has taken home £1 million (US$1.21m).

GIP-TOGO then sorts, shreds, cleans and bags the shredded plastic to be used again, including in ecological paving slabs.

Kenya’s Chemolex has won £750,000 (US$0.91m) to scale production of Biopactic, a biodegradable alternative to plastic made from invasive water hyacinths that grow aggressively in Lake Victoria.

The next-generation material can completely replace single-use plastic in food and product packaging – not only reducing plastic pollution but dealing with an invasive plant impacting Kenya’s marine ecosystem too.

Another Kenya firm to make the cut is Mega Gas, winning £500,000 (US$606,695). Mega Gas converts waste plastic into affordable cooking gas for people living on less than US$1 a day.

It uses a thermal cracking process that creates no emissions, residue or pollution to turn plastic pollution, such as polyethylene, into fuel for rural families.

Tris Dyson, Managing Director, Challenge Works said: “11 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean each year.

“It is a disaster for the environment and for communities reliant on healthy seas. The winners of the Afri-Plastics Challenge are putting African innovation at the heart of solving this global problem.

“We are awarding more than £4 million to businesses that are already doubling recycling rates thanks to the Afri-Plastics Challenge while providing new sources of income for families, pioneering companies converting invasive plants in Lake Victoria into biodegradable materials and businesses creating affordable cooking gas from the trash.”

Christopher Thornley, Canada’s High Commissioner in Nairobi added: “Plastic pollution is an issue that affects everyone. Plastics that make their way into the marine ecosystem are just as damaging whether they originated in Mombasa or Montreal, Lagos or London.

“The winners of the Afri-Plastics Challenge show there is a way forward for establishing a successful circular economy for plastic waste, with innovations capable of changing how we all use and dispose of plastic – not only in Africa but around the world.”

Other notable winners include Chanja Datti from Nigeria (£750,000), EcoCoCo Homecare from Kenya (£250,000), Toto Safi from Rwanda (£100,000), Catharina Natang from Cameroon (£250,000), Ukwenza VR from Kenya (£250,000) and Baus Taka Enterprise from Kenya (£250,000).

Launched in July 2021, the Afri-Plastics Challenge received 1,141 entries from innovators across sub-Saharan Africa.

The challenge is designed and delivered by UK innovation prize experts Challenge Works and funded by the Government of Canada.

It is an element of the US$100-million Marine Litter Mitigation Fund announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix in June 2018.

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