Learners make a splash with recycling project

Grade 4 learners Oscar Tshabalala, Ansuar Ntakirutmana, George Mutombo, John Bartlett and Felix Mudzinganwama with their dolphins, sharks and fish

More than 400 learners in Grades 4 and 5 at Addington Primary School put their creativity and enviromental awareness skills to the test on 24 June 2014 to fashion an assortment of handmade marine creatures which competed in a race.

The challenge presented by uShaka Sea World educator Heidi Killian was to make a marine animal using discarded plastic items that would float in the Wet 'n Wild Adventure River at uShaka Marine. 

Addington Primary is recognised as a school committed to teaching its learners respect for the natural environment and, as the school is uShaka Sea World's closest neighbour, marine creatures offer endless inspiration for marine conservation projects such as this.

A lesson highlighting the harm done when we discard plastic and other items incorrectly and they land up in the ocean, was well understood by the learners. Introducing the learners to three weapons that all good eco-heroes need  the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, provided the impetus for some great artistic fun.

By collecting plastic bottles the learners would be reducing landfill waste; by making something out of the plastic, the item would no longer be a single-use commodity, and by transforming a bottle into an animal, they took recycling to another level.

The race-winning creations in Addington Primary School's recycle project


In total, 419 handmade sharks, dolphins and fish were entered into the race which was divided up into a series of heats until the final winner "swam” across the finish line. Although there was only one winner, all the learners who participated were acknowledged as winners in the fight against plastic pollution.

Plastics play a crucial role in modern life, but the environmental impact of the way in which we dispose of them cannot be ignored. South Africa, like all countries, is experiencing a waste explosion driven by increasing numbers of disposable products and massive growth in product packaging. 

Plastic bottles don’t belong in landfill sites. Recycling is alive and well in South Africa, with almost half of plastic bottles produced being recycled. 

Soft-drink PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are recycled for the manufacture of car parts, fibre for clothing, pillows and duvets, and new packaging. Recycling plastic uses less energy than using non-renewable resources to make virgin plastic.

The ultimate challenge to all South Africans over the next two years is to increase the percentage of PET bottles being recycled from the current  50% (one in every two) to 70%. This target is realistic and measurable, and every citizen should be helping our oceans by preventing plastic pollution from reaching the ocean and posing a threat to marine animals.

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