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The average South African generates about 1 tonne of waste a year and, according to the National Waste Information Baseline 2011, will throw about 900 times their adult body weight of waste in their lifetime. Considering our tendency to litter, it paints a grim picture of what the landscape could look like without any intervention.

It’s with this in mind that Cape Town executive mayor Dan Plato recently launched a city-wide clean-up campaign.

“Cape Town routinely features on lists of the world’s most beautiful cities and is ranked among the top tourist destinations across the globe. So we have good reason to be proud of what we have to offer and to take pride in our surroundings,” Plato said.

“We want to make sure that our beaches, urban parks and tourist attractions, as well as your local neighbourhood, stay safe and sparkling clean because we know that unchecked grime can lead to crime.” 

Kicking off the initiative, Plato was seen alongside his team cleaning up an illegal dumping site at The Range in Elsies River. He urged residents of Cape Town to take ownership of their environment. He said that while the city’s solid waste management department and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers worked hard to ensure high levels of cleanliness and clean streets, it was also the responsibility of residents to throw their trash in bins and not illegally dump waste on the side of the road or in open spaces.

“We want this clean-up to be a team effort and creates pride within communities to look after the neighbourhood that they live in,” he said.

It is in communities’ interest to keep their environment clean. Litter and illegal dumping include the following effects:

  • Social: Not only is it unsightly and smelly, but it can also promote the transmission of disease (tyres, for example, are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos, while contaminated medical waste can spread diseases). Dumped waste can also do physical harm (for example, children can pick up discarded sharp objects or they may eat something that could make them sick).
  • Environmental: Cigarette butts can start devastating fires. Litter can contaminate soil and water, and block stormwater drains, which can lead to floods. It can also trap, suffocate, strangle and poison animals.
  • Economic: Not only does it cost the municipality a lot of money to clean up illegal dumping areas and litter, but it also has a negative effect on property prices. It can also lead to fewer tourists visiting, which has an impact on jobs.

Plato said that he had allocated an extra R115m to ramp up cleaning operations. The funds will be spent on:

  • additional cleaning of informal settlements: R56m;
  • recruitment of Expanded Public Works Programme workers to help with community clean-ups: R14m;
  • area cleaning (in the Solid Waste Management Directorate), specifically servicing poorer areas: R20m; and
  • grass cutting and maintenance across all wards by the recreation and parks department: R25m.

The mayor said he would visit a number of communities over the next few weeks to make sure they were spending the budget effectively and efficiently.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Organise a community clean-up with your local school, community organisations, or your place of work.
  2. Set an intention to pick up a piece of litter every time you see one and throw it away.
  3. Politely ask someone to pick up their litter if you catch them in the act. Alternatively, pick it up yourself – hopefully the litterbug will think twice next time.
  4. Report illegal dumping in Cape Town by calling +27 21 480 7700.
  5. Recycle and use of the 26 drop-off sites for garden refuse, builders’ material and other items that don’t fit into wheelie bins. Find a list of these locations here.
  6. Keep a rubbish bag in your car to keep litter until you find a garbage bin.

Share your clean-up efforts on social media using the hashtag #KeepCapeTownClean


This article was paid for by the City of Cape Town.

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