29 September 2010

From Brunei to Bellville, banish rubbish from beaches

Renée Leeuwner
Emily from Brunei with her loot

Renée Leeuwner is the Aquarium’s tourism co-ordinator. She’s a keen blogger, a member of the Aquarium’s Green Team and the voice behind our Twitter profile.

Yesterday I met someone from Brunei. I never thought I’d meet anyone from Brunei – the small sovereign state on the island of Borneo – but yesterday I did.

How did we meet, you ask? Well, I met Emily on Muizenberg Beach. More specifically, at the parking lot where our coastal cleanup started.

She took a bag, gloves and a rubbish-recording sheet and set out, with a bunch of people, to hunt down the rubbish on the beach. I took the trusty Canon camera and followed in hot pursuit to capture some action shots of the hunting party. For two hours, old and young, South African and foreign, buckled down and picked up rubbish.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, not just because they were on the beach, but also because they knew they were doing something to help the environment. The adults, I think, looked at what was lying around and must have wondered to themselves: “Who is responsible for this?” and “Is this really the beach I want to bring my children to? It’s so dirty.”

The triumph was great and satisfaction and delight were etched on everyone’s faces as they returned with their loot.

Some strange items made it onto the lists. There was, for instance, a perfectly good Volkswagen key. Who lost their car key on the beach and how did they get home?

The usual culprits were also there – cigarette butts, drinking straws, ear buds, chip packets, plastic bottles, glass and plastic bags.

International Coastal Cleanup Day is a project run by the International Ocean Conservancy. Over the past 25 years, 8-million volunteers have removed 135-million pounds of litter.

This year’s official cleanup day was on 25 September, but the entire month of September has been dedicated to educating people about litter and our waterways, as well doing cleanups all over the world.

Going one step further, South Africa actually had a Cleanup South Africa week from 13 to 18 September, which included National Recycling Day on 17 September.

Every day I have the privilege to walk out of my office and walk straight into the most amazing environment, because I work at the Aquarium. More often than not, however, I am confronted by what humans are doing to the Earth’s oceans. It is not a pretty picture and it seems to become uglier and uglier by the day.

Emily, the lady from Brunei, is here on a volunteering holiday. She heard about the Aquarium’s cleanup effort at Muizenberg Beach, hopped into a taxi and joined us.

So, why did Emily and I meet? The answer is very simple. We met because both of us want to make a difference and we are not the only ones.

The thing is, it is very easy to make a difference. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.


Don’t litter. Be a responsible human being by considering the environment around you. Next time you’re at the beach and you’re about to bury that cold soda can, stop and think about what you are about to do. Then put it in a bin or take it home and recycle. It is as easy as that.

More blogs by Renée:

•    It’s a fish eat fish world
•    Joseph the cheetah visits the Aquarium
•    Aquarium staff rub shoulders with Leon Schuster!

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