Today’s Solutions: September 21, 2023

“Why do you think pirates are called pirates? Because they ‘aRRRRRe!’”

This is the joke that forms the basis of the “Captain Fanplastic” initiative—a primary school program aimed at teaching young children in South Africa and the Netherlands about plastic waste and the “R’s” that go with managing it: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle.

The program, which is the brainchild of Cape-Town-based behavioral design agency SoapBox, was launched in 2018. Since then, it’s been integrated into over 20 schools in South Africa and the Netherlands. On top of in-person programs, the program is also supplemented with e-books, audiobooks, and an e-learning platform, all geared toward educating children that plastic is a treasure—not trash.

“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,” says Captain Fanplastic facilitator Yanga Gceya. 

“Our audacious goal is to reach 175,000 kids around the world,” he adds.

How does it work?

The program uses storytelling to educate “little pirates” on the impact that plastic waste has on oceans, then they use visuals to show how both marine and land animals suffer because of plastic waste. The next steps involve arts and crafts using repurposed plastic and lastly, a treasure hunt to collect plastic treasure on the beach.

“Children that have gone on their first treasure hunt cleaned up a beach within the space of 45 minutes,” Gceya says.

What’s next for Captain Fanplastic?

Sub-Saharan Africa generates more than 17 million tonnes of waste each year. Sadly, only 12 percent of it is recycled. There’s already a colossal amount of plastic entering our oceans each year, but the quantity could triple by 2040 if we don’t act.

Innovation foundation Nesta Challenges set up The Afri-Plastic Challenge to help communities across Sub-Saharan Africa to manage plastic waste and stop it from entering the marine environment. The project is being funded by the Government of Canada.

The Captain Fanplastic program has been selected as one of the 30 semi-finalists in the Challenge that includes VR storytelling and community education programs.

Three finalists will receive generous sums of money to continue scaling their plans

“If we win, I think we want to make an animation,” says Gceya. “The funds from the Afri-Plastics Challenge can help us scale our program outside of trying to get to new countries and new partners on board.”

Gceya believes that educating as many little pirates as possible through the Captain Fanplastic program “has the potential to really change ocean pollution, change any kind of pollution that we see because…children… will be the new custodians of their environment… at every corner of the world.”

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