“African Flowers”: Aeolian plastic pollution in deserts

The purpose of this capacity and capability building project was to address the issue of plastic pollution in drylands. The issue of plastic pollution is well recognised in wetter climates but has been ignored in deserts yet these dominate a large proportion of DAC countries. Plastic pollution in deserts can impact on ecosystems, the aesthetic value of wilderness areas, and wider health issues via contributing to dust particulates and providing suitable mosquito breeding grounds.

The case studies we focused on are from two contrasting African settings of differing culture and population. Morocco has 212 people per square mile whereas Namibia has 8 people per square mile. The project aims to produce environmentally bespoke research of the specific challenges faced and establish the first scientifically-informed understanding of the nature, process, materials and impacts of aeolian plastic pollution in deserts. 

Plastic bags and bottles, wetlands, Walvis Bay

Benefits and impacts

  • } Interviews indicate a gap between the perceived (lower) and observed (higher) presence of plastic waste in deserts.
  • 3 A heightened understanding of the plastics issues which will inform policy making.
  • * Better targeted policy making that will benefit the environment and economy for local communities.

Bull with plastic bag, Kuiseb River, Gobabeb



We are currently awaiting the microplastics analysis of Namibian samples and fieldwork in Morocco. These data will then be combined in a European Geosciences Union or ICAR presentation (2020) and publications on perceptions and realities of the plastics issue in deserts, integrating geomorphology observations and social science perceptions.