Clean-up day brings community and cross-sector partners together

Schoolchildren, government, companies and NPOs worked together in Orlando East, Soweto, to drive environmental awareness and education in the region through a large-scale clean-up day on Friday 15 June. More than 1 400 schoolchildren and volunteers took part. Representatives from Qhubeka, Miss Earth South Africa, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), Pikitup and City of Johannesburg’s Transport Department were present.

Everyone gathered at Lofentse Girls’ High School, which is part of a Qhubeka learn-to-earn programme, and cleaned up the area within a 2km radius of the school. Clean-up equipment was supplied by Pikitup.

Sarah Chemaly, who works for Qhubeka, a charity that moves people forward with bicycles, was representing both Qhubeka and Miss Earth South Africa at the event. Chemaly is an ambassador and semi-finalist for the Miss Earth South Africa Leadership Programme. Miss Earth South Africa prides itself on empowering young South Africa women and communities with the knowledge and platform to combat the destruction of the natural environment. The organisation aims to spark youth activism, volunteerism and stewardship in environmental awareness.

Chemaly explains that many of Qhubeka’s programmes focus on the environment. For example, some Qhubeka Bicycle recipients earn their wheels by recycling waste or growing indigenous trees, and bicycles are considered one of the most environmentally-friendly forms of transport. “Miss Earth South Africa ambassadors and semi-finalists are required to set up or host a series of environmental community projects, the first of which is a community clean-up,” explained Chemaly. “This is done in the spirit of the International UN Environment Month, commemorated annually in June. This year’s theme was #BeatPlasticPollution. Today’s event brings together a number of partners who are committed to that objective. National Youth Day is on 16 June, and we are all excited to get youth involved in recycling and environmental awareness to show that they have a valuable role to play in helping to address the challenges facing our world and country.”

Qhubeka Executive Director, Tsatsi Phaweni, says that Qhubeka believes in partnership because working together accomplishes more. “We were happy to support this event alongside Miss Earth South Africa, CCBSA, Pikitup, City of Johannesburg and the community of Orlando East because it ties in well with what we do and benefits a community we care for,” she said.

Georgett Naidoo, CSI Specialist at CCBSA, said, “CCBSA is committed on recycling to the elimination, recovery and reuse of all waste, firstly through the reduction of pre-consumer waste, secondly the optimisation of our packaging for recycling and/or reuse, as well as by taking into account post-consumer packaging waste recovery and reuse. As part of the Schools Recycling Programme, we encourage learners in primary and high schools to collect recycling waste, and in return their school earns money from collections and reaching the set tonnage targets of 12 tons. When the school reaches 15 tons and more, they are entered into the national competition to stand a chance to win 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes (R50 000, R30 000, R20 000). All prize money is awarded towards the school for infrastructure purposes.”

She notes that the Gauteng region has over 150 schools participating in the programme, three of which took part in the clean-up day: Immaculata Secondary, Vuwani Secondary and Sekano-Ntoane Secondary.”

Selinah Tshabalala, Regional Manager for Pikitup, noted that the A Re Sebetseng Clean-Up Campaign launched by Mayor Herman Mashaba, is gaining traction with residents and the business community within the City. “Various companies continue to approach Pikitup to request to partner with the campaign,” she said. “After hearing about A Re Sebetseng, CCBSA approached the City of Joburg/Pikitup to propose a collaboration on their schools recycling programme. Every third Saturday of the month, CCBA and Pikitup clean up spots identified together, along  with other stakeholders that show interest in the campaign. It is encouraging to see the learners participating in the clean-up and learning about the importance of preserving the environment.”

Pikitup supported the clean-up by providing refuse bags, gloves and a truck to pick up the filled refuse bags after the clean-up.

All the recycling waste collected from the clean-up campaign will be collected by Pikitup, sorted, and will be donated to the three participating CCBSA schools for the School Recycling Programme competition (towards meeting the required tonnage to be entered into the national competition).

Lofentse Girls’ High School in Orlando East was selected as the location for the clean-up. The school is part of a Qhubeka learn-to-earn programme, in partnership with City of Johannesburg and various corporate partners. Learners receive bicycles to help them travel to and from school more quickly and regularly. In return, they commit to improving their attendance and academic results.

“My hope is that this community clean-up will help people understand the role that they play in being active and conscious citizens, who are accountable for their impact on the environment,” Chemaly says. “I hope the learners, volunteers and other stakeholders who participated in this clean-up will be encouraged to assess and act on the amount of waste we create on a daily basis, and to consider how we may collectively re-purpose, recycle and rethink our waste.”