More than 1 400 schoolchildren, government representatives, companies and NPOs hit the streets of Orlando East, Soweto, to drive environmental awareness and education in the region through a large-scale clean-up day on Friday, June 15.

Representatives from Qhubeka, Miss Earth South Africa (MESA), Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA), Pikitup (which supplied clean-up equipment) and City of Johannesburg’s Transport Department were present.

Sarah Chemaly, who works for Qhubeka, a charity that assists people to gain mobility with bicycles, 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. Bicycles are considered one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport.

The community clean-up is done in the spirit of the International UN Environment Month, commemorated annually in June. This year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution.

Georgett Naidoo, CSI Specialist at CCBSA, says: “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 target of 12 tonnes. When the school reaches 15 tonnes or more, they are entered into the national competition to stand a chance to win up to R50 000, which goes to the school for infrastructure purposes.”

Selinah Tshabalala, regional manager for Pikitup, notes that the A Re Sebetseng Clean-Up Campaign launched by Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba is gaining traction with residents and the business community within the City.

“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, CCBSA and Pikitup clean up identified spots 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.”

All the recycling waste collected from the clean-up campaign will be collected by Pikitup, sorted, and then 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).

“My hope is that this 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 participate 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 repurpose, recycle and rethink our waste.”

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