Westlake children taught to upcycle after clean-up

Sibabalwe Mondi decorating his recycled tin stationery holder while learning how to turn waste into wealth.

You should not litter and let the place get like this. It’s unhealthy and smells,” said Raulston Brown, a Grade 9 pupil at Steenberg High and one of the 208 children who cleaned litter dumped in the Westlake Village wetland last week Friday.

Westlake wetland should be home to otters, fish eagles, crabs and fish but instead it is a dumping ground. Watching children clad in facemasks and surgical gloves picking up rubbish, Elzane Burger from the Steenberg-based Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), said she believed the children’s awareness of the harm litter does would ripple through the community.

“When a child knows this they’re more aware of their litter and take the message home telling their parent or caregiver,” she said.

The clean-up, held as part of Youth Month, was a partnership between CTEET, Plastics SA, the Orphan Foundation, Women of Westlake and the City of Cape Town’s Solid Waste and Invasive Species Unit.

“We’re not just going to throw a rock in a pool though. Next time there will be another rock and another message,” said Ms Burger.

After an hour of cleaning up, the children moved to Westlake United Church Trust. After scrubbing and tucking into food and drinks they were divided into age groups to learn about upcycling.

“It’s the new buzz word, where everyday waste items are used to create something useful, such as decorating a tin and making it into a stationery holder, thereby reducing waste generated at their homes,” said Ms Burger.

Older children made billboards with their own environmental message while the very small ones made insects from toilet paper holders.

Ms Burger said they had chosen the Westlake community because of the large quantities of rubbish being dumped on empty tracts of land, especially those close to Westlake Primary School, built in the wetland between the country’s oldest RDP development and Pollsmoor Prison.

“Our main concern is that youth being exposed to this type of negativity are unaware and uninformed about the impacts or possible solutions in dealing with the waste,” said CTEET eco-schools officer, Taryn van Neel. “It’s important to integrate the three-Rs principle of Reduce, Re-use and Recycle into their everyday lifestyle,” said Ms Van Neel.