The little pirates saving South Africa from plastic waste
Since 2018, more than 20 schools in South Africa and the Netherlands have spread the lore of Captain Fanplastic, a pirate who wants to rid the ocean of plastic waste. The primary school program of the same name is turning school children into ocean justice warriors.
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Cape Town-based Soapbox is behind the anti-plastic superhero. This behavioral design agency tries to positively impact Africa in the healthcare, education, sustainability and financial inclusion fields.
Here’s how Captain Fanplastic works. Trained facilitators share The Legend of Captain Fanplastic with children. While the book and audiobook are only available in Africa, we have found out the general plot. Captain Fanplastic and his friend Fin the turtle set out on a quest to find out why Fin is sick. A whale and a seagull help them discover the answer, which is (spoiler alert) plastic waste.
After kids hear the story, they participate in a Q&A about plastic and its effects on marine life. They learn that plastic is not all bad when they get the chance to repurpose old plastic by making eye patches and their own renditions of Fin the Turtle. The program uses the hashtag #NoTrashButTreasure to encourage people to think of how they can reuse stuff in useful ways, rather than adding to the landfill.
The most exciting part for most kids is a field trip to a nearby beach, park or river. The kids participate in a cleanup framed as a treasure hunt. A treasure map explains different types of liter they’ll find. The kids who pick up the most trash win prizes.
After the field trip, the program matches schools with recycling partners to help them build strong recycling habits and environmental awareness. “We’re able to take this [initiative] into schools to show little pirates in primary schools, in particular to the ages of seven to 12 years old, that they can ‘Rrrr’ so that they can refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle plastic,” said Captain Fanplastic Facilitator Yanga Gceya, as reported by Euro News. “Our audacious goal is to reach 175,000 kids around the world.”
Sub-Saharan Africa generates more than 17 million tons of waste annually. Only 12% of plastic waste recycled, with much of it entering oceans.
The little pirates want to stop this. As Linako, a student at Intshayelelo Primary in Cape Town put it, “We became pirates and we saved animals from eating plastic.”