Diapers-on-demand, sustainable hygiene products and plant-based plastics among finalists in £1.1m Afri-Plastics Challenge

10 teams of innovators from across sub-Saharan Africa have been named finalists in the Afri-Plastics Challenge with ingenious solutions for reducing plastic usage. Each of the 10 finalists will receive £75,000 to invest in and develop their ideas ahead of final judging early next year. The eventual winner will take home a first prize of £750,000 in January 2023, with the runner-up receiving £250,000 and third place winning £100,000.

Finalists include Rwanda’s TotoSafi, a diapers-on-demand service which supplies hygienic, reusable and affordable cloth nappies to parents, then collecting and cleaning them for future use. South Africa’s She Eco Response has designed washable menstrual pads that can be slotted like puzzle-pieces into a single blanket to be dried in the sun for women wanting a sustainable alternative to single-use sanitary products while maintaining their privacy.

Chemolex from Kenya is transforming invasive water hyacinth plants growing aggressively in Lake Victoria into Biopactic, a recyclable, reusable and degradable alternative to plastic packaging. Kenya’s Lwanda Biotech is producing bio-plastics from agricultural waste that look, feel and function like petroleum-based plastic.

The Afri-Plastics Challenge, from innovation experts Challenge Works and funded by the Government of Canada, is rewarding the most promising sub-Saharan African innovators working in the circular economy to develop ideas that will tackle the worrying rise in plastic pollution across the continent and in its marine environment.

Tackling plastic pollution through three prize strands, the finalists in the second strand – Creating Solutions – announced today are being supported to develop innovative products that specifically reduce the volumes of plastic entering the value chain through ingenious and novel approaches.

Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development, Government of Canada, said:
“We must urgently reduce plastic usage worldwide. It’s clear that increasing pollution levels are devastating our shared environment. The finalists announced today in the Afri-Plastics Challenge demonstrate innovation and African entrepreneurialism at its best. I can’t wait to see how the innovative solutions proposed will reduce plastic usage and benefit the whole world.”

Constance Agyeman, Director of International Development, Challenge Works, said:
“Eradication of the plastic waste menace in the environment is critical to ensure resilient, sustainable communities. This calls for new solutions that go beyond traditional thinking. Today’s finalists are leading the way in dramatically reducing the volumes of plastic entering the economy to bear down on the avalanche of plastic waste that is engulfing Africa and its precious marine ecosystems.”

Other innovations into the finals biodegradable paper packaging from the waste products of banana, sugar and maize production, as an alternative to polythene bags, from Uganda Industrial Research Institute. While South Africa’s Regenize, aims to make it possible for local grocery stores – known as Spaza Shops – to transition to a zero waste model where customers fill reusable plastic containers rather than purchasing products wrapped in single-use plastic.

Having made their way through the semi-final round, each finalist has already received grants of £25,000 to develop their ideas. The 10 finalists will now receive a further £75,000 each to further advance and implement their solutions tackling the elimination of plastic usage across sub-Saharan Africa.

The successful community-centred products and services have demonstrated a sustainable approach to reducing the reliance on plastic that also supports the empowerment of women and girls. The Afri-Plastics Challenge’s goal is that the development of the innovators’ solutions will encourage the creation of new, sustainable local enterprises, bringing economic opportunity to communities, while creating solutions with application across sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.

Canada is a global leader in tackling marine plastic pollution, championing the Ocean Plastics Charter and a staunch supporter of the UN’s Ocean Decade Alliance. With the longest coastline in the world and one quarter of the world’s fresh water, Canada is uniquely positioned to lead in reducing plastic pollution and protecting ocean health. The Government of Canada continues to work with partners in Canada and around the world to protect the environment and build a healthy future for generations to come.

To find out more about the Afri-Plastics Challenge and the 10 finalists in the Creating Solutions strand, please visit afri-plastics.challenges.org

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