Why the captain says RRRRR….


Melissa Baird
Melissa is a sustainability communications specialist and environmental educator. She is responsible for developing the learning materials for the Captain Fanplastic Environmental literacy programme.

A human being found a turtle and a seal trapped in the same fishing net on Noordhoek beach. They were lucky to be rescued and the turtle, Annie, is currently at the Two Oceans Aquarium rehabilitating and getting strong enough to be returned to the ocean.

Every day beloved, iconic and essential sea creatures are getting entangled in nets and other plastic debris that is thrown from ships and dumped into the rivers and wetlands. Sea birds ingest plastic and die from malnutrition and whales have also been found washed up dead on the beaches with stomachs full of plastic. Some are fortunate enough to be rescued but as for the rest, you know what happens..

This is why Captain Fanplastic, the friendliest, most ocean-minded and environmentally clued up, storytelling, action-provoking pirate, and captain of plastic trash ,and his trusty friend Fin (the turtle), went on a quest to discover all the plastic trash they could find in order to understand what can be done about it. And don’t despair, there is lots to be done and it is very easy to do – you just need to learn how.



Why are pirates called pirates? Because they RRRRRR….

The captain teaches the 5 Rs as the foundation of managing plastic waste. You can consider how to introduce these values into your daily shopping habits in order to make your very own positive impact and help stem the tide of waste making it into the oceans and rivers.

1. Refuse. Do you really need that single use plastic item that is NEVER going to be recycled? Best bet it ends up in landfill which is the big municipal dumping ground for all the city’s waste. These are highly toxic places and space in them is running out.

2. Reduce. If you have your own paper and cloth shopping bags, and stop buying a plastic bag every time you shop, you will personally remove 365 bags out of the environment, per year. You will also save yourself R219.00 every year with this simple action (@60c per bag). You do the maths to work out what that adds up to for a big family over a lifetime.

3. Reuse. There is no doubting that plastic is able to store things and be reused as containers and planters for shrubs, vegetables and flowers. Rather than ‘throwing away’, what could be cleaned and reused? Explore the many creative ways you can reuse that yoghurt tub or ice cream container.

4. Repurpose. Some plastic can be used to make very useful items like mats and eco bricks. For all the plastic you don’t recycle, or reuse, you can make eco bricks that can be used to make chairs, tables and even a small couch.

5. Recycle. The most recycled plastic extracted from the consumer waste stream is PET. These are the bottles used for most of the cool drinks you buy in South Africa. PET is easily recyclable into other products like clothing fibres and duvets and the next bottle. Make sure your PET bottle gets to a recycling bin or collect what you have used and take them to your nearest drop off centre.




Join Captain Fanplastic’s pirate crew and learn how to RRRRR (https://captainfanplastic.com). 

Our relationship with plastic has been founded upon convenience and the belief that it is somehow ‘environmentally friendly’. Consider that every single piece of plastic ever produced is still in the environment and imagine the literal mountains of waste produced by a global population of seven billion people, every single day.

It is these daily habits of ours that determine our individual waste footprint. But too many consumers do not pay any attention to what happens to the chip packet, polystyrene food tray, lolly pop stick and cigarette butt, should it just be thrown out of a car window, left at the beach or park, dropped on the playground at school or dumped next to an already overflowing litter bin.

Remember that plastic waste has value, #NoTrashButTreasure, if the 5 RRRRR’s are top of mind.

Order your copy of The Legend of Captain Fanplastic here




What can you do to help? 

Follow the five Rs, when it comes to plastic: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.

You can also create awareness about the plastic pollution issue, by talking about it with your friends and family.

Help us raise money for Annie, the loggerhead turtle, so that we can release her back into the ocean by the end of this year. You can read her full story here

We are hosting a closed event for International Coastal Cleanup day this year, due to Covid-19 safety regulations, with limited spaces available. You can check it out here: ICC Facebook event. If you cannot join our event, you can organise your own cleanup with your family or friends. Identify an area close to your home and pick up any pollution you can see. Even better, download the Dirty Dozen Cleanup app and become a citizen scientist.

Together we can make a difference.

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