Catherine N. Michel-Maboh, a Buea-based international fashion designer, has received an award for “Promoting Behaviour Change” among fashion designers in the fight against plastics. The event took place during the Afri-Plastics Summit and Awards ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, from 12th-16th of March 2023. It was organised by Nesta UK and Challenge Works, with funding from the Canadian Government.
The Afri-Plastics Challenge aims to reduce marine plastics in sub-Saharan Africa through developing and scaling innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement in a way that promotes gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
It seeks to help communities throughout sub-Saharan Africa prevent plastic waste from entering the marine environment by finding ways to minimise reliance on plastics and new ways of managing plastic waste.
The summit brought together some of the brightest minds in Africa, who presented diverse innovative projects in the fight against plastics. The awards recognised the most innovative and impactful solutions among over 1,000 projects.
According to Oceana, 33 billion pounds of plastics enter oceans every year and some researchers have predicted that there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050.
The fashion industry, alone, contributes more than 35 percent of the micro plastics found in oceans, because 69 percent of all textile is plastic-based. As such, most fabrics are plastic-based.
Catherine and her team (which included Dr Maboh M Nkwati, Divine Abanke, and Teghen Clovis) addressed this problem through the Training-Empowerment-Promotion (TEP) model. The model aims at providing training to fashion designers on sustainable fashion, resource mobilisation and it also equips local designers to understand the subtle but massive presence of plastic-based fabric in the fashion industry and how this contributes to the global plastic waste problem.
Through the initiative, local designers learned about existing innovative, non-plastic alternatives and how to access them. They also learned how to recycle and properly dispose plastic-based fabric. Participants received free training and guidance on how to raise funding for themselves.
Apart from designing outfits from waste plastic-based fabric, Catherine and her team also created a fabric recognition app, which helps designers to distinguish between plastic-based and nonplastic-based fabrics.
Users only need to download the app from Google Play Store, take a good picture of the fabric, and the app will then provide detail descriptions of the plastic content of the fabric. This revolutionary model received applause from all the panellists and organisers.
Catherine Michel-Maboh and her team continue to work with designers, NGOs and other interested stakeholders to empower women, promote sustainable fashion and environmental protection.
Plastic pollution remains a huge environmental problem that even has health implications for humans when they consume fish and other seafood that have ingested micro plastics. She anticipates an increase in the number of home-based designers who will make use of this TEP Model so as to contribute to the solution of reducing plastics in oceans.