It’s been a fantastic privilege to present A Plastic Ocean to a new audience – probably our North African premiere – in Tunisia this weekend, and the inaugural Envirofest (link) in Tunis.  

The Saturday began with joining the Jeune Scientist Tunisia team at the their tent in the main boulevard in Tunis, where they were posing a number of problems about the environment on market stalls – whether marine creatures, water chemistry, pollution challenges and biodiversity.  We were alongside the Tunisian affiliate of Birdlife International, whose role is to support Special Protection Areas for the many bird species that migrate across Tunisia from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe twice yearly.

On our stall, we displayed a range of exhibits of micro plastics – microbes from toothpaste and cosmetics, micro plastics collected from beaches as well as examples of everyday plastic articles that are the root of the plastic pollution problem. For the many people and children that came to the stall, they were aware of the littering challenge in their country, but not the impact it causes.  A very engaged audience!!

The film showing hosted in Hotel Africa brought around 100 people, including children and young adults, came together to see the film as well as take part in our panel discussion afterwards.  Very informed questioning by the audience followed the film – this was an audience really wanting to know more, and begin to think what they can do to stop the problem. With a strong tourist economy, the impact of marine litter is evident on their beaches – and they want to stop it.  We were honoured by the presence of the British Ambassador to Tunisia, Louisa de Souza, who asked the final question to the panel – what would be the single action we think the country should take.

The Sunday involved meeting Khalil Attia who is Director of the Barcelona Convention activities for the UN, based in Tunisia.  The Tunisian Government takes the protection of the Mediterranean very seriously and is clearly showing strong support and leadership in this area. It was an excellent opportunity to explore how we can align and work together with the UN to raise awareness of the issue and support their activities through the film,  education and our science programmes with the Plastics in Society Hub (http://plasticsinsociety.global

After that we met with the Director of solid Waste Management for Tunis and we discussed waste infrastructure and system, and the many changes he is bringing in to improve waste capture and recycling.  we are now helping him to identify the right support and expertise to advise him on his future waste management planning.

On the Monday, we then met with the British Ambassador and her team to see what we can do to work with her and develop partnership working with the state, and the NGOs in Tunisia.  Whats really impressed us has been the strong culture of science and education in Tunisia, and therefore the foundations of collaborative working and support are there. We look forward to returning and beginning the future partnership on plastics in the environment – which would be a fitting legacy for the first Envirofest film festival in Tunisia.

We would like to thank Rebecca Cecil-Wright and Leila Ichennoufi for inviting us to take part in Envirofest 2018 – its been such fun and a privilege to be part of your first festival – and the British Embassy for their generous support to Plastic Oceans UK for attending.  We will return later this year to develop the collaborations with partners here in Tunisia!