Volunteers fill scores of rubbish bags during river clean-up

Mosselbank River Conservation Team in Cape Town mark World Clean-Up Day

By Vincent Lali

20 September 2022

Locals Luntu Boyce and Andile Qhuba pick up plastic waste on an open field in Fisantekraal during the clean-up on Saturday. The event was organised by the Mosselbank River Conservation Team and marked World Clean-Up Day in Greenville. Photos: Vincent Lali

About 60 volunteers from Fisantekraal and surrounding communities rolled up their sleeves on Saturday to remove waste from the river which flows into the Mosselbank River.

The clean up, organised by the Mosselbank River Conservation Team, marked World Clean-Up Day in Greenville. The Mosselbank team tackle environmental issues in the Greenville and Fisantekraal communities, said co-founder Danielle Cronje.

She said they host monthly clean-ups at the river and in an open field. She approached community leaders in 2017 to start the project. “We can’t clean the river without involvement of the community,” said Cronje.

Volunteers remove solid waste such as plastics, papers, tins and bottles from the river once a month to prevent blockages and harm to the ecosystem. Cronje said the team plants vegetation to rehabilitate the river but this is often eaten by goats.

Illegal dumping of building rubble and garden waste is a major challenge.

Ragel Jackson and Elizabeth Maans cross the river they cleaned on Saturday. Volunteers conduct monthly cleaning days in the community.

“Volunteers are not paid, so we don’t get many adult volunteers as they expect something in return.”

“We put recyclables in yellow bags and send them to a local recycling company,” she said.

Cronje said the volunteers also attended snake handling, First Aid, fire-fighting and other courses. They have turned an illegal dumping hot spot into a community garden as an “adopt-a-space project” in 2021.

Community leader Nyameka Mahlakatha said she joined the volunteers in January last year. “We plant trees and flowers in the river so that the small water animals can stay in a healthy and clean environment as well,” she said.

Mahlakatha said she and other volunteers teach the youth how illegal dumping affects animals in the river and people. “We hope they will share their knowledge with their parents. The rubbish from the open field goes into our houses and yards when winds blow. We must fight illegal dumping,” she said.

Children from the community joined the team to clear some of the rubbish bags.