Plastic Punch: Innovative Ways to Stimulate Societal Engagement in Marine Plastic Pollution

Richmond Kennedy Quarcoo, Plastic Punch, Accra, Ghana, Paige Martin, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, United States and Madeline Foster-Martinez, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, United States
Abstract:
Marine and coastal pollution is a big problem in Ghana. Though waste management facilities exist, they are not sufficient to cope with the amount of waste produced by the country, and waste is dumped onto beaches and into the ocean. Plastic Punch is an energetic non-profit organization launched in January of 2018 in Accra, Ghana, and is aimed at protecting the coastal environment from plastic waste, providing sustainable waste management solutions, and raising awareness of the harms of single-use plastics. Plastic Punch has developed a multifaceted approach to achieve societal engagement. To address pollution already at the shore, large beach cleanups on turtle nesting beaches are held on a regular basis. Transportation and food are provided to remove barriers to participation by volunteers, who range from school-aged children through adults. Waste is collected by type (e.g. bottles, bottle caps, plastic sachets, shoes), avoiding the need for later sorting, and is counted upon collection to allow for data analysis and recycling. This collection strategy also gives participants a targeted mission and helps dampen the feeling of being overwhelmed by the vast quantity of trash on the beach. To get an idea of scale, on a beach cleanup on May 25th, 2019, 4 tons of waste were collected including 210,600 plastic bottles with 200 volunteers within 4 hours. Plastic waste collected is either turned into bricks for use in road construction or shredded to produce textiles.

Art workshops are integrated into the beach cleanups and awareness seminars, including re-purposing materials gathered at the beach and physical activities such as yoga, soccer, theater, and dance. To gain visibility, Plastic Punch has launched some tech campaigns, including a mobile app to collect data on sea turtles and encourage citizen science. Marine pollution is a global issue, and only through the active participation of local communities throughout the planet will we be able to effect positive change.