North America may not be a major source of discarded plastic flowing into oceans, but that has not stopped Virginia-based Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO), which is a program of the federal government’s USAID agency, from seeking solutions to the global problem.
At the 2022 International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) convention in Singapore in September, United States-based industry veteran Lori Scozzafava, who currently serves as director of capacity development and governance of CCBO, provided an overview of the organization’s methodology to upgrade waste diversion techniques around the world.
Scozzafava says CCBO has cooperated with 17 local governments in six different nations, including the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Vietnam, to develop a 180-question survey devised to pinpoint how the jurisdictions can bolster recycling efforts and prevent ocean-bound littering.
She said that while plastic is targeted in the efforts because it is “floating and visible” when it arrives in the ocean, the problem of pollution in regions where the collection and recycling infrastructure is lacking involves more than just plastic.
The CCBO survey breaks down local government challenges and tactics into six categories. Scozzafava says the “service delivery” category gets the most attention because it is “the component everyone’s mind goes to.” However, the other five categories, including planning, financial management and community engagement, also are vital.
The industry veteran, who has been a staff member at the Solid Waste Association of North American (SWANA) and Virginia-based consultancy Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), said the process of completing the survey and following up on it has led to significant recycling progress in places like Da Nang, Vietnam.
Whether there or in other jurisdictions that have worked with CCBO, she said the effort identifies and brings together local leaders—some of whom had not previously met—who can carry forward a collection and recycling effort.
The survey results are “able to show where this local community is in terms of its ability” to divert waste from the ocean, Scozzafava said. While the initial survey scores have ranged from 32 to 80, she said the follow-up actions involve the vital question of “how do they turn that ‘no’ answer into a ‘yes.’”
Post-survey follow-up can lead to waste characterization studies, research into funding options, and perhaps most importantly, wider staff and community involvement, Scozzafava said.
CCBO is in the process of preparing a “tool kit” for local governments, followed by a training course it intends to distribute in ways that will make it easily accessible. More information on the effort can be found here.
The 2022 ISWA convention took place at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre in Singapore on Sept. 21-23.