Thousands of South African’s rolled up their sleeves and took to the beaches to participate in the first ever World Clean-Up Day on Saturday, 15 September 2018.
The event, which involved 144 countries and 13 million volunteers, kicked off in Fiji and moved around the globe with the time zones, ending in American Samoa 24 hours later.
According to Plastics|SA, which spearheaded the country’s involvement in the event, 26 thousand registered volunteers and many more unregistered citizens arrived at beaches between 09:00 and 12:00 to do their bit to pick up and remove litter from the environment.
Partnering with Lets Do It! Africa and the Ocean Conservancy, Plastics SA and sponsors provided resources for the clean-ups in the form of 300 000 specially printed yellow refuse bags, latex gloves and ground support to make this one of the biggest events ever to take place in South Africa as part of the annual Clean-up and Recycle SA Week.
Growing public interest
According to John Kieser, Sustainability Manager at Plastics|SA and coordinator of the beach clean-ups that took place in KwaZulu-Natal, Southern, Eastern and Northern Cape, the annual event has grown tremendously since the first time South Africa took part in the International Coastal Clean-up Day 22 years ago.
“The public awareness of the damage litter causes to the marine environment and the willingness to do something about it, has reached an all-time high. Saturday saw one of the biggest turn-outs of volunteers we had ever seen as people from all walks of life put their differences aside and worked shoulder to shoulder for a great cause,” he explained.
More than 110 official clean- up events took place along South Africa’s coastline that stretches for more than 2 500 km along two oceans, although many more unregistered and spontaneous community driven events took place throughout the week and on the day.
Calls for effective waste management
“The purity of our oceans is a crucial issue for our country. However, it is important to remember that clean-ups do not offer a long-term solution and are not meant to replace regular waste management.
“With events such as this past weekend’s World Clean-up Day, the aim is to draw attention to littering, trash blindness and general mismanagement of waste.
“Civic action must be followed up by effective waste management reforms. Improved waste collection and management must be established everywhere. We also need to look at what we are throwing away, because nothing is waste until it’s wasted.
“Plastics and other packaging material should not end up in landfills and definitely not in our oceans, because they are valuable resources that should be recycled,” Kieser concluded.