Litter Warriors

It’s Saturday morning, Kai and I are ready to hit the beach with my 9 year old cousin, Ranusaint. It’s beach clean-up day! My son, excited to show Ranusaint the ropes, explains that we must “leave only footprints and no litter on beaches!”

We arrive at Fish Hoek beach with a few minutes to spare. Everyone is in good spirits and we are welcomed by familiar faces – Simon (group leader) and his family, Chris and Hennie from Fish Hoek CID. Most impressive was the arrival of 3 young people, probably between the ages of 10 and 15 years, ready to arm themselves with bags and gloves!

In the South Easter we hold on tight to our bags. The boys and I head off to clean the section between the railwayline fence and the road. With great eagerness my son runs off to pick up an empty cigarette box while Ranusaint struggles to free plastic bags and styrofoam cups from the shrubs and bushes.

I am amazed at the enthusiasm of these two kids, 7 and 9 years of age, each one dashing off in the direction of shiny sweet wrappers and niknaks packets! I have the unfortunate task of removing all the “yucky” litter; toilet paper, wet bottles, wet plastic bags (some soiled with urine) and well, anything that they not familiar with!

“This is so much fun!” exclaims Ranusaint. “Mommy there’s less litter this time hey?”, “don’t people know not to litter?” Some of the comments from my 7 year old. Walking along the railwayline fence I hear my son explain “Ranusaint, you know most of this litter is from people traveling in the trains! They just throw their litter out the window!”

A huge amount of the litter along the Peninsula coastline  comes from the railwayline and roadside travelers. People would rather chuck their crap out the window than wait to get to their destination and dispose of the rubbish in a bin. Then the same people come to the beach and picnic in their litter!Unfortunately some people will never change.

I remember growing up as a child, in primary school, it was the “norm” to just drop my chips packet on the side of the road, litter everywhere. I didn’t know any different – no one taught me differently – NOT EVEN MY PARENTS, no one taught them any differently.

Litterering, the norm in many communities. It is only later, when I went to a school in another area that I noticed the stark difference. I learned about conservation, ecology and taking pride in your community.

These lessons I took home, and slowly we started changing our habits. I no longer littered, I kept my wrappers until I saw a bin, often storing my litter in my school bag. My dad started picking up litter blown onto our property by the South Easter and I vehemently started crapping my parents out when they threw litter out the car window.

You see, sometimes the obvious is not that obvious after all… In life we learn through the actions of others. As children we look at our parents for guidance, BUT, sometimes even they don’t know better. This is the reality!

We can clean as many beaches today and still have a filthy beach tomorrow. Anti-litter campaigning starts at home, and in today’s society our children will be the “CHANGE AGENTS”, their voices are strong, they will fight with conviction for what is right and what is wrong (I am an optimist!). I know this! I look at these two boys and I am confident that littering may die out with my generation (yes, many people my age still litter!).

I am proud to say that my parents no longer litter. My son is completely and totally anti-litter. He’s being raised in a family and in a community where we take great pride in our environment, we intrude on nature the minute we step out our front door!

It is crucial for our survival and that of many other species that we start  embracing the responsibility we have to conserving our natural resources and heritage. Participating in beach clean-ups and inviting your friends and family to join in is one fun way of ensuring this.

Greg at CleanC has done a remarkable job of educating and facilitating beach clean-ups and recycling initiatives. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard of Simon driving this initiative on Fish Hoek beach! It is encouraging to see the Far South’s community participation and generosity; getting involved and getting their hands dirty. It would however be great to see more people participate; it is after all, only the first Saturday morning of every month!

Today we leave only footprints. Remember, “toes in the sand, trash in the can”!