World Environment Day: Beat plastic pollution – a plan for sustainable packaging in Africa
The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) World Export Development Forum 2018 is scaling up sustainable trade and enterprise development in Africa by supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Growth in trade leads to more packaging: currently, more packaging means more plastic. ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ marks this year’s World Environment Day on Tuesday, 5 June 2018. The World Export Development Forum will feature a regional packaging event that puts an accent on sustainable packing solutions.
Packaging accounts for 41% of the annual increase in landfill and ocean pollution. Over the last five years, $100 billion worth of products exported from Africa to the United States and the European Union has been rejected at borders due to packaging issues. The problems stem from a lack of compliance with standards, poor labelling and limited packaging alternatives. Inadequate packaging impedes Africa’s MSME export growth to reach new markets, particularly in the food sector, and has a detrimental effect on new start-ups, damaging brand image.
“African enterprises now place packaging at the top of their export and sector development priorities,” says ITC’s Senior Export Packaging Specialist, Frederic Couty. As a result, ITC is working with firms and technical institutions across the world to reduce the negative impact of packaging in trade.
Mr. January Melkiado, Manager of the Small Industries Development Organisation packaging centre in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, praises the benefits of such partnerships. “The upgrading by ITC of our packaging support centre in 2016 fully equipped us to help agri-food SMEs in the surrounding area,” he says. “Improved information and testing facilities have [allowed] local designers, such as i-print, to produce market-compliant packaging.”
ITC’s collaboration with new technical partners and leading packaging, logistics and e-commerce providers can help turn the challenges Africa faces into opportunities. For example, companies in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are creating biodegradable substitutes for plastic that can be produced on a small scale using organic waste. Through its donor-funded projects, ITC can connect these innovations with packaging users, manufacturers, business development support services and sector associations to rapidly roll out their use in developing countries.
ITC can act as a platform that links pioneering technology, local support services and resources to MSMEs. These businesses can then take advantage of sustainable packaging advice and design services that improve market compliance, increase competitiveness and ultimately add value.
The World Export Development Forum, taking place on 11-12 September in Lusaka, Zambia, will feature a regional packaging event, organized with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Italian company IMA, connecting major supply-chain actors to local producers to find a better way of packaging products in Africa. The 2018 edition of the Forum will scale up trade for MSMEs in a sustainable way. More information on the Forum is available here.