Young people are awesome - especially those taking a stand for the betterment of our environment. This Plastic Free July we'll be sharing the stories of Cape Town youths taking action against plastic pollution - meet the young Capetonians taking the initiative and turning the tide on plastic.
All the stories below are written by the youths themselves, or their guardians:
"Hey, I’m Jade. I started my own non-profit organisation, Oceano Reddentes to help deal with plastic in the oceans. I am a 5 Gyres Ambassador and in love with the ocean.
I started Oceano Reddentes after I watched a movie called Chasing Coral and wanted to do something about the reefs. My mind then went straight to eco-bricks, we could do talks to schools and surf programs, getting children to make eco-bricks at home, maybe we could use those eco-bricks to build a house for a homeless person. That was just a seed of an idea and it all spiralled out from that.
The Ocean has taught me so much and is my BIGGEST role model. It’s an amazing place full of colour, light and surprise. It’s like a giant piñata. You never know what you’ll find. It holds the life of more than a million species. The ocean has places that have never been seen by human eyes. But, the ocean is slowly dying and we need to do something about it.
Every day a species in the ocean gets closer and closer to extinction. We depend on it to survive - from food to air we couldn’t live without it.
My mission for you is to reduce one plastic item you use in your life every day. By doing this you can save a turtle, save that seal, help the world and save us all!"
"Hi! I’m Christie and my passion for marine life and conservation for the marine environment started when I participated in one of the Two Ocean’s Aquarium’s school courses. I fell in love with everything marine and proceeded to do all the other courses they had to offer and the next few years saw me completing my marine biology and oceanography degree.
Throughout my journey I became aware of the threats plastic pollution poses to marine animals and started investigating ways to reduce my plastic consumption, specifically that of single-use plastics! From straws to shampoo, I did away with it all, but there was still something I used every day that was still plastic – my stationery!
This is when I decided to start Minimal Waste SA, a company driven to provide South Africans with earth-friendly stationery. Between volunteering in educational environments and spreading the word, I am now currently completing my marine biology honours at UCT and I am looking at why sea anemones have started to ingest plastic. Solving the problem of marine litter requires many people to take action. My aim is to have my actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more in the fight to conserve our oceans."
Rocco Da Silva
"The Future Kids is a club for kids and adults I started, to help remove and clear litter off our beaches. Our very first beach cleanup took place on 13 April 2018 and we do monthly beach cleanups on Strand beach and also spread awareness about litter, beach cleanups and recycling among kids and adults. Over the last 14 months, we have collected over 950kg of litter off our local beach!
The solution [to the plastic pollution issue] is to stop using single-use plastic items and to continue recycling and upcycling. I think that recycling is one of the answers to stop single-use plastic pollution ending up in the environment because we have to do something with the litter that’s already there, that is why The Future Kids spreads the word about recycling.
I want everyone to do their bit for the planet! Come to a beach cleanup - it doesn’t have to be my cleanups it can be anyone’s cleanup or it can be just you and your family, but please do something. It’s time to take action and start doing the right thing....let’s save our planet!”
Jen's mom Kathy, was kind enough to provide us with Jen's story:
"It all started when her big brother, Matthew, won a lead SA award for his community service for a children's charity. While he and mom were at a function for this, Jen was at the Aquarium with dad. There she saw a display about Bob and how he'd eaten plastic. When Matt and mom arrived, Matt was so inspired by meeting Hunter Mitchell (of Saving Private Rhino) that he suggested Jen have her own project. So she asked what she could do to help penguins and turtles.
Initially, she kept it small: giving up straws and balloons. She asked the Aquarium if she can be an ambassador for them too. Especially as she really loves your turtles. We often have to check how Yoshi is doing in the ocean!
A few months later we heard about how Owl Rescue use plastic to make nesting boxes. So we asked if we could be a drop point in Claremont. Jen has been very enthusiastic about doing her bit. Especially as her grandmother loved owls.
In about 14 months she has collected 185 cubic metres of plastic. This gets collected from us (we send in roughly 12 cubic metres every two weeks or so). They sort it, chop it up and mould it into nesting boxes."
"Hello! My name is Anna. I am 9 years old and in Grade 4.
One day, I saw my mom watching a video about a turtle with a straw up his nose and people were trying to help take it out. It made me very sad and angry. I asked my mom about what happened to the turtle and she started telling me about single-use plastic and climate change.
I never understood that humans could cause climate change until my parents explained it to me. When I understood it better, I decided to do something about it. Just one person can make a big difference. I had to explain it to others so that we can stop damaging our earth.
The next day I asked my teacher if I could speak to my class and told them about it. I was very nervous. I told them that we must do something and stop using single-use plastic and styrofoam containers. The fish are eating the plastic because they think it is food. After class my friends said: “Well done Anna!” this made me feel good. We also learn about caring for our environment and recycling at Durbanville-Kraaifontein Scouts where I am a Cub.
My parents helped me to start my own group called “Little Green Hearts and Hands”. They helped me to organize my own beach clean-up. My friends and family all came to clean the beach. We picked up a lot of styrofoam, rope, lollipop sticks and tiny little plastic pieces.
I would like more children to start doing something about our environment and tell their friends what is happening. We have to spread the word and stop using single-use plastic. The earth is a gift from God, and we must look after it."
Claudine van Zyl
"Hi, I’m Claudine! I’ve always been intrigued by the ocean and the animals that inhabit it. With its dynamic currents, tides and all the creatures that live in and around it, I have so much respect for this “Eighth Wonder of the World”. BUT, this wonder is under great threat!
Plastics are devastating our oceans and killing our marine life – this is the harsh reality. During my time with The Beach Co-op and the exposure I have as a volunteer at the Two Oceans Aquarium, it is clear that we all need to implement a plastic-free lifestyle. Marine creatures are entangled, suffocated and killed by plastics. It breaks my heart to see these things happening to our oceans and this is why I do all I can to try and save them!
As the Ambassador for Faithful to Nature, I try to limit my waste to landfills by recycling, building my composting empire and eco-bricking. I buy cruelty-free, eco-friendly, natural and sustainably sourced products, such as reusable bags, stainless steel straws, Ecoffee cups, etc.
I encourage everyone to follow suit and do their bit – every single one of us has a part to play in solving this issue! So ask yourself - can I afford not to do my bit?"
Thandisile Fatyela & Siyabonga Mtsako
Lwandle Hiking Club co-founder Thandisile Fatyela filled us in on what he and fellow founder Siyabonga have been up to:
"In September 2017 I established Lwandle Hiking Club with my best friend, Siyabonga Mtsako. Lwandle Hiking Club is a community based environmental and tourism organisation. We work with various school learners and community youth, in an attempt to raise environmental awareness and environmental issues within our surrounding community. The organisation was created to connect and inspire the youth with nature through guided and unguided hikes in various protected areas.
So far we have hosted wetlands and water awareness programmes, excursions and fieldtrips with learners, a biodiversity awareness camp and weekly classes that we host at the local community school, where we run Saturday morning classes with the Grade 10s, teaching them about biodiversity and other related environmental themes. Recently, we hosted a community clean-up initiative to raise awareness about the pollution challenges that we are facing within our communities, and we will continue to raise awareness and fight against the single-use plastic. We are also very happy that we have just started July as one of the major concerns is that most of this waste was collected on a periodic river channel and during the rainy season most of this waste will flow with the water towards the Strand Beach and Gordons Bay Beach.
I have always loved being involved in community and youth development programmes, specifically programmes that promote environmental sustainability and education. Our passion for the environment comes from my academic background, I studied at environmental management and sustainability at UWC and Siyabonga has a background in tourism and event management from CPUT. Our vision is to use our knowledge to grow the educational aspects of the club through environmental education programmes."
"My name is Zoe Prinsloo, my eco-journey started when I was about 10 years old when I joined the Bothasig Girl Guide Company and that is when I attended my first beach cleanup! Over the years we did many beach cleanups and when it came to choosing my year-long community service project for my Protea award (that is the top award in Rangers), it came as no surprise that I chose to do beach cleanups with Cape Town Beach Cleanup.
In June 2018 I saw this video of a turtle. Many of you will already know exactly what video I'm referring to...that horrific video of this poor turtle with a straw deeply imbedded in its nostril! Watching them pull this man-made piece of plastic out of that poor creature's nose was more than I could bear! I vowed that very same day that I would never use a plastic straw ever again! This video is what forced me to take action. To find an alternative to plastic straws. This is how Save a Fishie began.
I wanted to make eco-friendly products available to everyone. When looking around I noticed how hard it was to find them and how expensive some items were. I wanted every person, the average person on the street, to be able to make a change in their daily lives and be able to buy eco-friendly products. I started just with straws! But since then my little business has grown!
Why Save a Fishie? I was doing a beach cleanup at Milnerton Lagoon about 2 years ago and I pulled this plastic bag out from between the rocks. Suddenly the bag started moving and I was shocked to discover that stuck inside the bag was a small fishie!! Naturally I immediately let the little guy out and I watched him swim away. I realised then that doing these beach cleanups on the same beach month after month and sometimes feeling like I'm not making a difference at all...well that day I made a difference to that little fishie.
Not everyone can make policy changes at their company, not everyone can walk to work instead of driving...not everyone can make those big changes. BUT we can ALL make a small change and all these small changes add up to big changes. And that will make a difference.
So help me. Help the Environment. Save a Fishie"
Did we miss someone? Let us know on social media and we'll add your Cape Town youth champion to the growing list!