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Reflecting back on our #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign

We partnered with Twyg for the third year on our #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign and found innovative ways to ensure a successful campaign in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and country lockdown. It is clearer than ever that we need to shift our relationship to the natural world and reorient our consumption and production patterns to ensure that we can navigate these uncertain and volatile times.

For those new to this campaign, we have adapted the Australian Plastic Free July campaign and called it #PlasticFreeMzansi. This is now an annual media campaign focused on eliminating plastic waste. Plastic waste has become a symbol of the careless relationships we have with our stuff, each other and the environment. These relationships are broken, and we want to help build new ones, sustainable ones. We encourage people to be more aware of their use of plastic, and to work on solutions with communities, retailers and manufacturers. To realise this, we do beach cleanups, inspire conscious consumer choices and drive circular design (reduce, reuse, recycle and repair) thinking.

In the beginning of July, we launched our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ mobile app on the Marine Debris Tracker platform enabling people to collect plastic waste and log the Dirty Dozen data whenever they visit their local beach. We usually host five cleanups in July each year. Because of the lockdown regulations, it looked as if we would not be able to host any, but with the support of the City of Cape Town and the necessary permits we were able to hold two cleanups. Thirty of us gathered at Mouille point beach on 18 July for our first Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ since the start of lockdown. We partnered with Twyg, the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Aquarium Foundation – it was wonderful to gather again and meet up with old and new friends, share stories and use our new app to log our Dirty Dozen data. Our second cleanup took place at our local spot, Muizenberg Surfers Corner, for our monthly, new moon, rocky shore exploration. It was great to partner with the Aquarium Foundation students who have been learning online about our marine biodiversity and had not had an opportunity to explore on the rocky shores – we were excited to have the students with us sharing their knowledge, finding nudibranchs and uploading their species pictures to our iNaturalist site.

The Henley Business School joined us at these cleanups to document and film what we were doing and to interview some of our stakeholders. They are compiling a documentary of our work for students of their Masters in Business Science who will be working with us in the coming months. We were selected as one of five non-profit organisations that they work with on aspects of reputation, brand and risk – we are excited to learn more from them and of our stakeholders’ perception of us to inform our strategy.

We also launched a new project with Twyg in July 2020 to refashion plastic! For this year’s #PlasticFreeMzansi campaign, we’ve collaborated with five designers who have made garments and accessories from plastic waste. These items were placed in a surprise basket that travelled to five personalities – Zolani Mahola, Carol Bouwer, Elana Brundyn, Yasmine Furmie and LOOTLOVE. These iconic personalities will re-wear and style these garments as they wish. We understand waste as a design flaw, and believe that pollution and waste should be “designed out” all together. Illustrating circular design, the designers VIVIERS Studio, Our Workshop, One I AM, Not Just a Comb and Crystal Birch have given plastic the value it deserves.




Visit here to help fund our Plastic Upcycling Initiative.

About the garments

The five garments include an upcycled plastic utilitarian and protective outerwear garment made to be worn during the Covid-19 pandemic and that will remain relevant as a water-resistant raincoat once the pandemic has passed. The trench coat, designed by Lezanne Viviers of VIVIERS Studio, is easily wiped and sanitised. Viviers used light-blue disposable medical fabric, woven plastic bags, U-Cook Ziplock bags and computer packaging. Double welt seams strengthen and support the plastic and help keep germs out. Functional utility flaps with easy closures allow for essential accessories like cell phones and car keys.

Onesimo Bam, designer and artist and founder of One I Am made a bag from a shopping bag and recycled black bags that he cut into strips and weaved. “The pattern happened organically. I included a personal message from Li Edelkoort [international trend forecaster] because it was appropriate for the current times we are living in.”

Not Just A Comb did several experiments with household plastics before settling on a credit card lanyard that facilitates a touch-free payment system for grocery stores, coffee shops, or booksellers. The aim was to understand the composition of “waste” and find innovative and economical ways to scale production and manufacturing processes. “One of the alarming conclusions of this project was realising the amount of plastic waste that my household is responsible for producing,” says Hamzeh Alfarahneh, founder of Not Just A Comb. “Refashion Plastic has opened my eyes to the potential of using plastic waste as components for design.”

With Refashion Plastic, Crystal Birch launched Happy Hats, a collection of upcycled polyester hats. For this project she has created two hats from 100% polyester fabric, one from an old silver dress from her wardrobe and another from a faux fur jacket. She says, “by creating new garments out of old plastic ones I have extended the lifespan of discarded clothing. People will get excited to wear an item, which could even come out of their own wardrobe.”

Our Workshop used recycled plastic strapping to create a basket that allows air to flow through it, and that is easily cleaned and sterilised. Baskets are an ancient craft tradition and are multi-functional. This basket reimagines this tradition using recycled waste.

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