From the 1950s to the 70s only a small amount of plastic waste was produced globally. By the 1990s plastic waste generation had more than tripled in two decades following a similar rise in plastic production.
It rose in the early 2000s more in a single decade than it had in the previous 40 years.
Today, 300 million tons of plastic waste is said to be generated every year, that’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire population.
According to researchers, more than 8.3 billion tons end up in the ocean every year and if care is not taken there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Most of the plastic in the ocean is said to come from the rivers – 90% from just 10 rivers a study has shown.
Eight of the rivers are in Asia – the Yangtze; Indus; Yellow; Hai He; Ganges; Pearl; Amur; Mekong; and two in Africa – the Nile and the Niger.
“We were able to demonstrate that there is a definite correlation in this respect,” a report by World Economic Forum quoted Dr. Christian Schmidt, one of the authors of the study from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research as saying.
“The more waste there is in a catchment area that is not disposed of properly, the more plastic ultimately ends up in the river and takes this route to the sea.”
Thus at the recently held First Global Challenge in Dubai, a team of South Sudanese teenagers built a robot that can clean water bodies of plastics and other pollutants.
The First Global Challenge to recover “trash from the seas” using robots is an annual international robotics and artificial intelligence competition held for the first time in Dubai to spotlight on the more than eight million tons of plastics and other pollutants that make their way into the oceans due to human activity every year, killing marine life affecting global populations.
According to team mentor Richard Ring, the robot can be used to clean the Nile of plastic pollution and the Nile is one of the 10 rivers contributing 90% of Ocean plastic waste.
“As a youth, our main point is to unite and make a change and work with the community to clean the oceans. We can do it together,” James Madut, one of the team members, told Gulf News.
Adau Deng Kuol, also from South Sudan, said the competition “gave a voice to people who can do something about the problem”.
The South Sudan Robotic was established in February 2017 by Team Manager Kuc Mayur Kuc and Mentor Richard Ring Kuach to move and urge South Sudan youth to embrace and study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as a way of solving real-world problems in the areas of agriculture, energy and more.
On 9 July 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan – an outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.
Made up of the 10 southern-most states of Sudan, South Sudan is said to be one of the most diverse countries in Africa and home to over 60 different major ethnic groups.
Many have envisioned the 2011 independence to bring about peace and development, but that was not the case.
Civil war broke out in 2013 when the president fell out with his then-vice president, leading to a conflict that has displaced some four million people.
A power-sharing agreement was signed between the warring parties in August 2018 in a bid to bring the five-year civil war to an end.