Story | 15 Jul, 2020

IUCN pilot tests a national hotspot methodology in Africa and Asia, to help governments abate marine plastic pollution

IUCN’s Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCs) initiative rolled out a series of national workshops in Thailand, Viet Nam, South Africa, Kenya, and Mozambique from December 2019 to March 2020. The workshops kicked-off the pilot testing of IUCN-UNEP National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action methodology. Simply called, a national hotspot methodology, it aims to help governments identify plastic hotspots, prioritise interventions, and design mitigation instruments in abating plastic pollution at the national and sub-national level.

A hotspot is defined as either a component of the system that directly or indirectly contributes to plastic leakage and impact or that can be acted upon to mitigate this leakage or the resulting impacts.

“We proposed to undertake interventions, which are considered to be high impact/low feasibility, including informal sector enforcement, Extended Producer Responsibility, licensing imports of waste plastic, waste separation at source, composting and expanding solid waste collection in rural areas to improve our waste management effectiveness,” said Buithithu Hien, Coastal and Marine Coordinator, Vietnam Programme Coordination.

Focused on the methodology, the workshops have reviewed existing datasets on plastic leakage, validated initial plastic hotspot findings. It also served as a venue to discuss and identify information gaps essential to the methodology as well as their sources.

“We suggest that we conduct a random sampling of exactly what is happening in the environment, by understanding what, where are plastics coming from and leaking to. This is a good starting point to further improve the methodology,” said Mr. Jerker Tamerlander, Coordinator, Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA)

Through the workshops, various stakeholders have a clear understanding of what the hotspot methodology is, including how it could be applied over time to support national efforts to mitigate plastic pollution.

“There is a need to identify critical hotspots in order to help focus our energy and action. The identification of sector-specific plastic waste generation hotspots within the assessment by the IUCN is an important one to inform actions by various stakeholders, such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Cleaner Production Centre for South Africa. It is important that we recognise that the proposed interventions within the assessment should align with other related work in the sector, such as the Plastic Sector Masterplan,” said Mr. Dumisani Buthelezi, Director, General Waste Minimization, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa.

The hotspot assessment was seen as an important tool in providing support to South Africa’s policy work, including to Chemicals and Waste Phakisa, single-use plastics, and other programmes.

“This hotspot analysis is seen as an avenue through which we as a country can establish a strong scientific basis on the plastic problem to guide and inform our national and county actions to address the most strategic issues,” said Dr. Ayub Macharia, Director, Environmental Education and Awareness, Ministry of Environment & Forestry, Kenya.

The Kenya workshop and stakeholder meetings highlighted the data challenges that exist at the national level, and were able to share critical sector-by-sector data and information available.

“We recognise that the hotspot results will support in establishing a reliable national plastic leakage baseline, identify and develop actions on critical leakage hotspots that require urgent attention,” said Mr. Jorge Mafuca, National Director, National Fisheries Research Institute, Mozambique.

It was observed that there was a need to utilise the outcomes of the assessment to support the development of a national marine plastics action plan; awareness raising on the sustainable management of solid waste, and promote segregation at source in Mozambique.

Following the series of workshops, IUCN, EA, and Quantis are now working with the five countries to enrich the data sets needed to make the methodology more efficient and effective in providing support to governments and other stakeholders in their efforts to reduce plastic leakage in the environment.

With funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the workshops served as a venue to discuss country-specific data, understand the plastic value chain and identify key sources of plastic leakage and related impacts. Participants included representatives from government agencies, NGOs, academia, civil society, and the private sector.


With support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), IUCN launched the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities initiative (MARPLASTICCs) in 2017. This is a three-year initiative implemented in five countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Thailand, and Viet Nam.