By Kate Stubbs, Marketing Director at Interwaste
The future of South Africa’s environmental sustainability is certainly not all doom and gloom – simply because the youth, thankfully, carry the potential to help save the earth. Our planet is our home and a place that sustains us, however, over the years we have journeyed on a path of self-destruction through destroying the very home that shelters us. From carbon emissions, land degradation and deforestation, all of this has ultimately caused knock-on effects on our biodiversity and ecosystem. “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future,” Franklin D. Roosevelt – instilling in them the potential to make a difference.
The Youth: Limiting Waste For A Better Future
Today, we know that South Africa generates 122 million tonnes of waste per annum and only 10% of this waste is recycled and 90% of it is diverted to landfill sites – equating to about R25.2 billion worth of waste being generated – a staggering number. A third of the food that is produced in South Africa also ends up in landfill sites, which are fast reaching full capacity. In fact, South Africa produces 10 million tonnes of food waste every year and reportedly, has the largest proportion of food wastage in Africa. Yet, an average of 14 million people still go to bed hungry every night – and 2,5 million of these are children – so we know something needs to be done – and soon.
Considering the above facts and figures, it’s not hard to see why there is an urgent need to eliminate waste and change behavior, not only for the protection of the environment but, if we ever want to really tackle some of the realities of climate change, stop biodiversity losses and combat the threat posed to earth’s natural species – we need to go beyond our traditional approaches and find ways to work with and engage our youth with possible solutions.
Taking Initiative – Recycle and Reuse
I believe that there is a real opportunity for South Africa to increase its recycling, reuse, and repurposing scope – far beyond just corporate and household waste efforts. We are already seeing young ecologists in a space that is making collective efforts to restore the earth – managing waste resources effectively to ensure that we don’t run into a waste and earth depleting crisis.
Rocco Antonia Da Silva, an 11-year-old who attends Somerset College, is just one such example. He is the founder of The Future Kids Club and an award winner at the Ecologic awards. The group hosts an array of beach clean-ups where they organise young people to clean-up beaches, within their area, while educating them about the importance of #NoPollution but recycling to protect our planet.
There are also initiatives such as the Khensani’s Collection, where they implemented an Eco-brick project which aims to alleviate pollution caused by plastic waste. Khensani’s Collection is actually building classrooms with Eco-bricks that are created by young people across the country – this is simple, elegant, and innovative – just what we need to see more of.
The Youth: Thinking Ahead
We need to be thinking ahead and instill a complete culture and attitude change – by adopting the ‘nothing wasted’ mindset and embrace an all-inclusive view for us to make a real difference to waste transformation. Yes, it will require creativity, collaboration, dedication, and a new level of positive participation in improving an ecologically protected environment, but if we embrace young people, and their ideas for targeting waste problems – maybe we stand a better chance at building a far more resilient and sustainable future for all.
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