Cape Town Big Beach Clean-Up: The true value of litter
I was on the verge of tears when I found out that we collected over 1.6 tons of litter at the Cape Town Big Beach Clean Up on 18 February 2017.
I have always set unrealistic targets for myself and am a strong believer in aiming for the moon to land in the stars, but this past weekend I overshot the moon and landed in a new galaxy.
In September 2016, South African national radio station, 5FM, hosted a #LiveLoud music festival at Cape Town, where they released balloons into air during the concert. Capetonians took to social media expressing their anger and disappointment in the radio station.
The days of complaining are over. We can no longer point fingers. It’s time for us to take ownership and lead by example.
It was this thought that led me to challenge 5FM to own up to the mistake and turn it into an opportunity to educate South Africans about our environment. This, in turn, led 5FM to host South Africa’s biggest beach clean-up, in partnership with organisations that are doing great work in caring for the environment, Two Ocean Aquarium, Clean C, Sea Shepherd and Love Our Trails. The days of complaining were short as 5FM took responsibility and responded positively.
As we built up to the big day, there was something haunting me. I knew that collecting litter and dumping it into landfills is nothing more than just moving the problem – we needed solutions.
We decided to partner with Waste-ED, an organisation focused on up-cycling non-recyclable waste by making Ecobricks and building schools out of them. It made perfect sense, as the secret to caring for our environment and driving change is education. We also partnered with Operation Smile, which has in the past collected bottle caps to be recycled and used the money to perform operations on kids with cleft palates.
The weekend was a huge success. Hundreds of people from all walks of life gathered at the six clean up points (Sea Point Pools, Mouille Point Lighthouse, Milnerton Beach, Liesbeek River, Joe Slovo and Lions Head), while 5FM broadcast from the Two Oceans Aquarium. The highly energetic DJs got their hands dirty giving updates from each location.
Outstanding parts of the event
- Anna Foundation brought 16 kids from the Paarl wine route to join in the clean-up as part of the practical education about our environment. Two of these kids, who have never been to the beach before, were interviewed by the SABC. It was impressive to see them confidently stand in front of big cameras, while they answered questions about what they learnt about the environment and litter in English and Afrikaans. It was special and inspiring.
- Around 20 training police officers also joined in the clean up at Milnerton Beach. These guys and girls made us proud and looked good in their uniforms.
- We played with more than 100 kids in Joe Slovo while making Ecobricks to build a school in the community. These kids contributed 120 bricks.
- Businesses such as Simply Life Insurance brought their families to help make signs and run their own social media campaigns in support of caring for our environment.
What we achieved:
- In four hours, with over a 1 000 environmental heroes, we collected 1 640 kg of waste and recycled 1 006.8 kg of it.
- We stirred up a conversation around litter and created awareness around alternative options to adding waste to our landfills.
- Together with Operation Smile, we helped our education system to build a school through eco-bricks, which will put a smile on some kids’ faces.
- We created opportunities for kids to go to the beach and others to hike Lions Head for the first time.
- We saved many animals and left Cape Town looking better.
What I learnt from this is that you do not need to be famous or have money to make a difference. This event only cost me R34, lots of passion and time to put together. Anyone can make a difference if s/he wants it enough.
Thanks to everyone that helped make this day a success. From Tuffys Brands, who selflessly sponsored all the bags and gloves and wanted nothing in return, to every single person who came through on the day.