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Kenya beach cleanup

One ocean, one people

This year Aaniyah and Megan-Rose both participated in cleanups for International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day but in different parts of southern Africa.

Kenya beach cleanup

Aaniyah’s experience in northern Kenya:

Aaniyah was traveling in Kenya and visiting Kiwayu island off the northern coastline of Kenya. For ICC day she took a boat ride with Captain Ali, Joshua Oginda, Joanne Peers, Winnie Kiiru and Willis Osore to the mainland and met with Amina Shali from the Bahari Moja project to join their cleanup on Kongoale beach. The Bahari Moja project works in collaboration with the Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT). NRT works with grassroots conservation communities aimed at enhancing people’s lives, building peace and conserving the natural environment. NRT is a membership organisation owned and led by the 43 community conservancies it serves in northern and coastal Kenya. NRT’s marine program centres around four member conservancies in Lamu and Tana River Counties – they are Kiunga, Pate, Awer and Lower Tana Delta. Bahari Moja aims to collect and recycle plastic waste from the conservancy’s shoreline.

At this year’s ICC cleanup the community, largely led by females, collected 2.3 tonnes of litter. Aaniyah remembers strolling along the beach in absolute disbelief and Joshua gently saying to her, “You have gone silent Aaniyah, I understand that you are processing all that you are seeing and feeling.” Aaniyah was left speechless and the eco-anxiety that she tried to keep at bay began gnawing at her again. This community has taken on the burden of collecting plastic and waste that does not belong to them and is mostly ocean-derived. They have their own problems to face and safeguard against – poverty, lack of access to education, food, health services – and yet they continue to care and find solutions in their own way. In 2021, community members, conservancy rangers and staff collected approximately 34.9 tonnes of plastic waste from the surrounding beaches. Furthermore, the Kiunga Conservancy’s plastic recycling centre has now been completed, and community members have completed training on plastic sorting, crushing and recycling. Local women’s groups use recycled plastic to make eco-bricks for building, as well as crafts to sell.

Robben Island cleanup
Megan Rose leading the Robben Island cleanup

Megan-Rose’s experience in South Africa at Robben Island:

This year Megan-Rose has fondly been referring to International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day as ‘The Super Bowl’ of Beach Cleanups – she thinks it’s an accurate description of the magnitude of planning that goes into the preparation for this global event and we are sure you would agree!

Personally, Megan-Rose has been participating in cleanups and the ICC for 13 years and now that she’s responsible for project management and hosting beach cleanups she truly understands the work that goes into making sure that the day runs smoothly, that people have fun, that we remove as much litter as possible; and that the litter is removed from the beach.

For ICC this year TBCO partnered up with Twyg Magazine, Coca-Cola Peninsula Beverages and Robben Island Museum to clean the Robben Island coastline. The exciting aspect of working with so many different stakeholders is that it brings many people together, all with the same goal – to remove litter and have fun whilst doing it!

The planning for a cleanup on an island comes with a few extra challenges – the weather and swell conditions need to be mild so that we can boat across with cleanup participants. . We set two weather windows ahead of the cleanup; with the 17th of September (the official ICC day) being the ideal date. The final call for the weather and swell conditions was Thursday 16th September and we were given the ‘all clear’, with each stakeholder informing their teams that we were ON, and our final plans fell into place sweetly.

When the big day arrived, we had an early start meeting at the Robben Island Gateway at 7 AM – there was certainly a buzz of excitement in the air!

Once we arrived on the island, teams of people headed to the buses and they were taken to their designated areas and got stuck into collecting litter and logging the Dirty Dozen items they found. After a full three hours of intense cleaning, 150 people collected over 500 bags of litter. There was a wide variety of litter – from buckets, plastic utensils, personal hygiene items, lids, medicine containers, pieces of boats, bits and pallets of treated wood and children’s toys. The top three, most numerous #Dirtyozencleanup items for the day were: cooldrink lids, lollipop sticks and cooldrink bottles.

It was exhilarating to work together to help keep South Africa’s beaches clean!

Megan Rose on Robben Island

Kenya and South Africa, one ocean connects all of us

Both Aaniyah and Megan-Rose shared news of their cleanups with each other and reflected that the driving force of communities working collectively the world over to overcome plastic pollution is what keeps them going. We cannot overlook the fact that the plastic problem is in fact a by-product of colonialism and capitalism. The work of Max Liboiron from the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) has helped Aaniyah understand and vocalise this. Max writes that CLEAR places land relations as the centre of their knowledge production. They explain that pollution is best understood as the violence of colonial land relations rather than environmental damage, which is a symptom of violence. In other words, colonial land relations assume access by settler and colonial projects to indigenous lands for settler and colonial goals. Furthermore, the treadmill of industrial and capitalist production is always in need of more land to contain its pollution. The fact that the interdict to stop Shell was successful, based in part on evidence that our oceans are a sacred site where indigenous people’s ancestors reside, is a massive step towards an anti-colonial environmental practice. The work of TBCO and Bahari Moja aims to address not only environmental justice but social justice issues too, by listening to community needs and trying to collectively find solutions. Ultimately, the pollution problem cannot only be resolved by citizens and communities that care. Producers and manufacturers of plastic need to be held accountable in their responsibility to fund and action both adequate measures to mitigate the current impacts of plastic pollution and to support more transformative solutions going forward.

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