Alpha, Bravo and Charlie on the road, for a cleaner ocean and a better future.
In my second week at the Marine Dynamics Academy, I had the opportunity to join Brenda Walters, from the Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT), and John Kieser, from Plastics|SA, on a road trip for International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICCD). This day takes place on 18 September in 2021 and volunteers from across the globe will collect statistics on trash that will contribute to a report with Ocean Conservancy.
Brenda and I started on the Monday (23 Aug) from Gansbaai, with a bakkie (a small truck) full of collecting bags, gloves, fizzy drinks and fishing line bins that would be handed out to the various different conservancies, private organizations and municipalities, that we were visiting on the trip. The fishing line bin programme is a key project of the DICT.
We met John along the way, who had all the other items that we would need for the road trip, including data cards to record the stats. From then onwards we followed John, who knew all the places we were supposed to visit. You would think that with his yellow bakkie and red trailer, it was impossible to lose him. However, more than once we asked ourselves “Where is John? Did we lose him again?” Our little bakkie, weighed down with packets of cleaning bags, was just too heavy to keep up with him. Luckily, he never left us stranded and always waited at the next turn off.
The road trip took us through many little seaside towns, from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, and most of the stops we made, were in places I have never heard of before. All of the organizations we visited, welcomed us with open arms, happy to receive all the goodies for the International Coastal Cleanup day, that is coming up on September the 18th.
Once we arrived at the places we were bringing the items to, the first thing John always said was: “Charlie, get in the trailer.” By Charlie he meant me, a joke that was established right at the beginning of the trip. John was Alpha, because he was always in front, Brenda was Bravo, being the second in command, and I was Charlie, the last one in our trio.
Making our way to Port Elizabeth, with stops all along the coast showed me, how many organizations and conservancies are trying to make a difference and are fighting against plastic pollution. Most of the people we visited have been a part of the ICCD for many years, trying to spread awareness in their communities. The trip has also shown me, that more has to be done to reach the goal of a plastic free ocean, than one person or one organization can carry. Driving through all the different landscapes from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back over Oudtshoorn showcased to me the beauty of South Africa and I have been amazed by what this country has to offer. But by looking closer in every landscape we drove through I could see plastic and litter on the side of the road. Just thrown away carelessly, without thinking of the consequences that this can have on the environment. Seeing this made me wonder at what can be done to change this. The beach clean ups, that will be happening on ICCD, are a start, but not a solution to the bigger problem. Educating communities and individuals are as important as cleaning up the trash that is already in the environment. Therefore, it is important for everyone to contribute to a cleaner environment, only together can we achieve a better future for our planet, a healthier future for the nature around us.
The road trip has taught me a lot about marine pollution related problems, and I am very happy that I was able to be a part of it. It made me realize once more, how fragile our world is and how important it is to protect it.
On a funnier note, it has also shown me, that as a German in South Africa, sometimes the language barrier can create unexpected miscommunications. Swartkops, is a region in Port Elizabeth, were we distributed some coastal cleanup gear to the local conservancy. At first, I thought they meant Schwarzkopf, a shampoo brand I know from back home. And I was feeling pleasantly surprised that a shampoo factory (who has plastic packaging most of the time) would participate in the ICCD. Of course, we laughed when I realized my mistake. But honestly, would that be such a bad idea? That way these companies could see the big impact that plastic pollution has on our nature, and it would help them to realize that changes have to be made.
You can read the blog I wrote for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust here: https://dict.org.za/blog/road-trip-with-plasticssa-in-preparation-for-international-coastal-cleanup-day/