Are you the type of person who neatly tucks and folds their plastic bags into tiny little triangles, or simply the kind (like me) to scrunch ’em up into balls? Well no matter which you are, just remember that next time you head to the beach, park, forest or even for a stroll around your neighbourhood – taking one of those little bags along could help make a big, BIG difference. During the weekend of the 15th of September, the globe marked the first-ever World Clean Up Day, an initiative which saw millions of eco-warriors (armed with carry bags and gloves), tackle pollution in their area. A big focus of this year was plastic waste reduction from our water ways, beaches and oceans. Micro plastics have become such a massive pollutant in South Africa that they’ve just discovered them in rivers in Gauteng and the North West.
Knowing just how much there was to be done, my bestie and I decided to mark the occasion by heading out to the Milnerton Lagoon Beach.
Back in our Smile 90.4FM Newsroom, we’d got word of dozens of community clean-ups planned for all over South Africa and especially along our coast lines, with hundreds of volunteers making a day out of getting rid of some trash. What’s better was the feedback I received in the days following after. From one group of volunteers who’d proudly gathered approximately 1994 bags of wastes, to another who (with the help of a recycling company), where able to sort and then recycling around 175 KGs of plastic. Picture what one-hundred-and-seventy-five-KILOGRAMS of plastic looks like…But unlike all these incredible community-groups, my bestie and I only walked away with two grocery bags of waste plus 1x old plastic garden chair – matching dried seaweed furnishings included I may add.
And that’s because everyone had seemed to get down and dirty before we could. The beach was almost spotless. Almost – Cue ugly broken plastic garden chair. While we were there we saw a few organized groups making their way up and down the shoreline in their teams. But that we also saw were the ordinary folks, the families, couples, dog-walkers and friends alike who’d all just come out to enjoy the beach but didn’t leave empty-handed. These were unsuspecting green heroes who’d sneakily hid their tiny triangles or scrunched up ball of bags till they spotted a pollution-pest. There was honestly something so heart-warmingly poetic yet ironic about people carrying man-made pollution, mostly plastic odds and ends, off the beach in plastic shopping bags. It was as if they’d come to do their regular shop along the sea-side.
We spoke to a few event-day volunteers and casual cleaners to find out why they thought it was important to do their bit to clean. Take a listen to the podcast.
For some organizations and groups, it was a new experience coming together for such an event – simultaneously with millions of others around the world. For others, this definitely wasn’t their first clean-up-rode, much like the Two Oceans Aquarium, who’s marine and plastic pollution experts will be out again soon for another clean-up in December. Aside from knowing there were so many people that took part in this initiative, I think it’s also encouraging to know that there are organizations who consistently help rally-up green-eco warriors for all sorts of clean-ups. Even when there isn’t a special day marked in the calendar, there are still those ordinary people who just enjoy their natural spaces and want to help keep them pollution-free. It’s as simple as grabbing a bag on the way out the door and filling it with all the things you don’t want to further harm our natural environments. After all – we are the ones making all that waste, we can help pick it up sometimes too.
Saya Pierce-Jones – Reporter, Smile90.4 FM News