Virtual Living Lab Liesbeek River – Dynamics of plastics
In November 2021 the second virtual living lab of the Liesbeek River in Cape Town took place, guided and organized by prof. Kevin Winter (UCT), Mariska Heijs (RUAS) and the OKP team. This year there was a special focus on plastic pollution in river systems. 12 Students from the Netherlands and 8 from South Africa co-created solutions to combat plastic pollution. They developed research questions and came up with innovative solutions to improve water quality in the Liesbeek river, but also elsewhere.
During the first sessions students attended a series of online lectures from NGOs, private companies and universities about plastic pollution, the Liesbeek River catchment area and its history, and a range of solutions that are currently applied in river systems. We welcomed the Litterboom Project, The Plastic Soup Foundation, Obscape and a Master-student from UCT to inspire the students with their work.
In the last session the students presented their ideas to an expert panel (amongst others, Odwa Mtembu (DWS), Tijmen den Oudendammer and Bart van Eck (RUAS)). It was great to see the ideas that the students came up with and wishto implement in the Liesbeek river: from working with nature, to hard and soft innovations to catch plastics and microplastics, and taking into account social challenges around education and involving the local community.
Hopefully students, academics, government organisations and businesses will be able to continue this work in ‘real’ living labs when the worldwide pandemic is over.