Fishing for litter as a blueprint for tackling ocean pollution

In recent weeks, global conversations have focused on issues related to the protection of the environment under the theme of tackling plastic pollution, providing an opportunity to call on governments, cities and businesses to invest in and implement solutions to end the problem. 

Today, that conversation turns to efforts that promote the preservation of marine life through addressing plastic pollution, especially in countries where waste collection and proper disposal are non-existent or deficient. In a new report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that it believes that it is possible to largely eliminate plastic pollution in the oceans with concerted measures between the public and private sectors, if countries and companies adopt measures and technologies already available.

Solutions, initiatives and technological advances have emerged in response to ocean pollution and the promotion of the circular economy. For more than a decade, BVRio has pioneered the development of market mechanisms that support waste pickers to recover waste from the environment safely, effectively, and profitably. We have tested the use of our tools in real situations, and they have evolved over time to accommodate diverse realities, compliance with new laws, and the implementation of technologies for the planet’s well-being.

Fishing for litter as a blueprint for tackling ocean pollution

Since December 2021, we have been working with marine environmental experts to wage the fight against ocean pollution: fishers. Our waste collection project in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, is an excellent example of a circular economy initiative capable of producing immediate effects in reducing pollution and contributing to the preservation of marine ecosystems. A prompt and scalable solution that is generating social and environmental impact.

In partnership with Ogyre, we are helping local fishers remove tons of plastic from the sea and mangroves around Ilha do Governador. BVRio coordinates the work with the local community and manages the waste collection through our app KOLEKT. The fishers reconcile their time for collection with the attempt to continue their artisanal fishing, and the work done by them so far, although it seems modest given the size of the pollution in the area, has been showing visible results in the recovery of mangroves and degraded beaches. Even though the challenge is great, each action counts, and the project shows that it can make a difference, even on a small scale.

The project brings together several actions of utmost importance for its success and its potential to be replicated worldwide:

  1. Awareness raising and mobilisation: We started the project by raising awareness among fishers about the importance of preserving the oceans and the negative impacts of pollution in Guanabara Bay, explaining how they can play a key role in solving this problem.
  2. Capacity building and education: We provided training to local fishers about proper waste collection practices, including identifying and correctly classifying the waste collected and educating the local community about the importance of proper disposal of collected materials and the risks associated with pollution.
  3. Equipment and materials: The project provided safety equipment, such as gloves and boots, and other supplies needed for waste collection to allow the fishers to carry out their work effectively and safely.
  4. Mapping and monitoring: We mapped the Guanabara Bay area to identify critical waste accumulation points. We continue to regularly monitor the amount and type of waste collected by fishermen to assess progress by type of waste.
  5. Recycling and proper disposal: We have established partnerships with recycling cooperatives and waste collection centres to ensure that the materials collected are forwarded for recycling or proper disposal to reduce the environmental impact of waste and promote the circular economy.
  6. Recognition and incentives: We continuously value the fishers through certificates, awards or other incentives that demonstrate the importance of their work for the preservation of Guanabara Bay.
  7. Dissemination and public awareness: Promoting the project locally, nationally and internationally informs the public about preserving the ocean. We share the stories from fishers, data about the waste collected and the positive impacts achieved.
  8. Continuous monitoring and evaluation: We regularly monitor the project’s progress and evaluate the results to identify opportunities for improvement. We hold regular meetings with fishers to obtain feedback and foster an environment of continuous learning.
  9. Expansion and replication: As the project develops and gains positive results, it is clear that this type of initiative has the potential to be expanded to other areas of Guanabara Bay and the model replicated in other locations and fishing communities. We continue to share lessons learned and best practices so that other regions can benefit from this approach.
  10. Transparency and inclusiveness: To ensure transparency of financial resources, and allow them to be paid directly to the fishers, even those without mobile phones, BVRio developed the KOLEKT waste app for the implementation of an inclusive approach to marine waste collection management, generating efficiency and verifiable positive social impacts of operations.

The fishing for litter project is an innovative and promising approach to dealing with the problem of plastic pollution in coastal areas. It is inspiring to see the local community and fishers actively engaging in cleaning up and restoring the marine environment, leading to increased awareness and engagement of a wider audience, including potential partners and supporters. 

The initiative has contributed to a healthier and more sustainable marine environment in Guanabara Bay by involving fishermen and promoting a change of mindset towards ocean preservation, proving it could be escalated to contribute to the whole coastline of Brazil and the world.