Environmental groups in Hout Bay are joining forces to ensure their prized ocean waters and sandy beaches are taken to new crystal-clear levels.
The initiative to turn back the tide on pollution is known as Blue Bay 2030 and involves hundreds of locals coming together to earn the bay the coveted Blue Flag status.
The Blue Flag is an iconic international measurement of pristine beach and water quality which, once achieved, has to be maintained and pass tough tests every year.
The ambitious project has set itself nine years to clean up the harbour and beach so that by 2030 it will achieve several of the United Nations Strategic Sustainable Development Goals.
Hout Bay Yacht Club (HBYC) manager Craig Dunlop whose members are among those organising the initiative said: “We know it is going to take a lot of very hard work. Our mission is to create massive public awareness of what we are doing to improve the ocean and the beach in Hout Bay through tourism which is basically our life blood.”
“If we do not achieve our target and succeed by 2030 then any failure would bring into sharp focus issues that Hout Bay have brought to the attention of Government who ignored them.”
The Blue Bay 2030 project is kicking off with the short-term goal to recycle all the plastic recovered from the sea into products of real value.
The initiative would see plastic that is brought out of the Bay shredded and turned into items like golf tees, colourful beads for use in making bracelets and necklaces and surfboard wax combs.
The idea is for a sustainable plan to take waste and turn it into items to be sold which will benefit the community through a number of projects that would also provide hard cash for locals. Included in the plan is a harbour tourism route serviced by four wheeler cycles operated by local tourist guides. The route will incorporate all the aspects of the Blue Bay 2030 collaboration allowing visitors the chance to see the project in action.
The project will be run in conjuction with the Hout Bay Partnership and Hout Bay Tourism Connect.
HBYC already has a plastic gobbling aquatic WasteShark donated by a local businessman.
The WasteShark is remote controlled and can swallow up to 200 litres of floating garbage at a time before having to be emptied and sent out back out into Hout Bay harbour.
And to recycle the rubbish Hout Bay Yacht Club has acquired a plastic waste shredder that tears the plastic waste to bits which can then be fed into a small plastic injection moulding machine.
The hand-operated device works with a series of moulds to complete the circle to produce items such as the golf tees and beads which would then go for sale online and to visiting tourists.
In the longer term the money from this initiative could be used to buy equipment that would allow the manufacture of plastic building bricks and planks to help locals build homes from waste.
“Our collaboration sees this as a crucial initiative as instead of plastic we pull out of the oceans being sent to landfill or worse, killing our fish or seals, we turn it into items of value,” Mr Dunlop said.
“A huge percentage of the Hout Bay economy depends on keeping the sea and coastline in pristine condition as that is what brings the tourists to our shores and we need to get our Blue Flag.”
He added that another goal of the initiative was to use it as a springboard to prevent the pumping of hazardous waste like oil and sewage into the harbour.
“We all need to be more environmentally conscious and just think of the pride of the people in Hout Bay if we can get the Blue Flag flying over our beach and over our harbour from 2030,” Mr Dunlop said.
Junk STARS, a Hout Bay harbour NPO, founded by Jessie Chester, is testament to the “buy-in” factor with a ground-breaking idea for locals to benefit by collecting waste.
Junk STARS pays participants who bring them plastic waste with tokens that can be used to buy household items from their shop – so the more waste they bring in, the more they can buy.
Each Tuesday afternoon, there are long queues of men, women and children waiting in line to trade the junk they have pulled from the sea and the beach.
The bay already has the Harbour Clean Up Project, Meraki Bay, solo clean-up volunteer David Beckett and the Sentinel Ocean Alliance which motivated Hout Bay Yacht Club to bring them all into partnership.
Mr Dunlop said: “The Blue Bay collaboration has already set up a steering committee to begin to understand the costs and processes involved with our long-term vision of winning a Blue Flag.”