The Benioff Ocean Initiative (BOI), a center for applied ocean research based at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is dedicated to leveraging the power of research to solve ocean problems and inspire the replication of these successes.
Plastic waste has become a grave new threat to ocean health and to communities and coastal economies dependent on healthy oceans. The great majority of this plastic flows from land to the ocean in rivers, with up to two hundred and seventy-five metric tons of plastic on average estimated to enter the oceans from rivers every hour. According to BOI, recent research has suggested that a large amount of this plastic waste enters the oceans via only a small number of rivers, which creates an exciting opportunity to strategically design and deploy cost-effective, high-impact interventions to catch plastic waste in rivers before it enters the ocean.
To that end, BOI, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation, has issued an RFP for Intercepting Plastic Waste from Rivers. Through the RFP, up to $3 million will be awarded in installments to a single team to design and implement a pilot plastic waste intervention strategy, both to effectively capture plastic and also create change inspired by the waste captured that addresses issues associated with plastic waste production and management in and around rivers.
Teams are invited to submit proposals for pilot projects aligned with both of the following goals:
Effectively deploy a physical plastic waste capture system, in a river anywhere in the world, that will intercept a significant amount of plastic waste in that river before it reaches the ocean. The proposed river plastics capture system should include the most effective techniques for plastic interception in the proposed river system. The complexity of engineering solutions can range from traditional to novel.
Effectively leverage the plastic intercepted by the capture system to communicate about the problem of plastic waste to the community where the intervention is based. The intervention itself should provide data and inspiration to community partners that empowers them to consider taking action in one or more of the following areas, including local infrastructure for waste management and recycling, local engagement and behaviors associated with the generation of plastic waste, local policy governing waste management or plastic waste, or regional industry standards associated with plastic waste.
Teams should include representation from all or most of the following categories: a non-governmental organization (or similar) which will convene, organize, and oversee activities of all partners in the collaborative team as well as receive and manage project funds; a governmental advisor with the jurisdiction to permit a plastic waste intervention strategy in the river of interest; a communication specialist that will mobilize incoming data on plastic captured to identify the sources and routes by which plastic waste comes to that river; engineers to design and implement the physical river plastic waste capture system; and watershed or other environmental scientists to advise or conduct in situ research to guide elements of the plastic waste capture system. A non-governmental (or similar organization) shall serve as the team leader.
Proposals are welcomed from teams focused on a focal river in any region of the world and need not be submitted from top-ranked high plastic emissions rivers. The foundation especially encourages proposals from focal rivers in which the river is situated in a region that can be shown to have high concentrations of plastic waste or in which plastic waste presents a particularly high threat to communities or local ocean health; and in which plastic capture systems are planned near a city or settlement of a size that could stand to meaningfully collaborate with communications specialists on the proposal team to use the data and story of the plastic waste collected in capture system to address regional problems with plastic waste.
See the Benioff Ocean Initiative website for complete program guidelines and application instructions.