From Source-to-Sea: Beating plastic pollution

Jun 2, 2023 | Activities

The Bot/Kleinmond Estuary is one of South Africa’s most important estuaries in terms of biodiversity.

But it faces many threats – especially from pollution and contamination. Land-based litter, including plastics, enters the system via municipal stormwater systems. Strong winds also blow these plastics into the estuary – to the detriment of all who depend on it.

A new project aims to address this threat to our estuary – by getting youth involved. By building skills in our Source-to-Sea Eco Rangers Project, we’re working with young people to firstly understand the threat of pollution, and then to start to address it.

This work meets the objectives set out globally this World Environment Day (5 June 2023) to beat plastic pollution. In fact, in a new report, called “From Pollution to Solution”, the United Nations notes that plastics are a growing threat in all ecosystems, from source to sea. But it also states that the know-how exists to tackle this threat.

Understanding the Source-to-Sea concept

In the Kogelberg Biosphere, 15 young people aged 13 to 18 from Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay have joined the project. It’s led by stalwarts, Jackie and Courtney Jakobs, and is a partnership with the Overstrand Municipality and WWF Small Scale Fisheries Marine Programme.

The project started in February, when the participants got their first theoretical lessons, to understand the Source-to-Sea concept. The goal was to show how interconnected our natural systems are, and that in order to protect them, you need to look at the system as a whole – from the water, plants and animals, sediment and pollution, and how it impacts on everything downstream. 

connected systems

In the Kogelberg Biosphere, we have many connected systems, including the Isaacs River, Middel River and the Bot/Kleinmond Estuary. The rangers were shown how these waterscapes work together – including a technology lesson on using Google Earth and Cape Farm Mapper to identify the study area. The rangers used this lesson to identify possible threats and pressures on the system and the priority flow inlets.

Our very own Amazing Race


To understand water quality, the rangers headed into the field to measure streamflow and record temperatures. They learned how to use Water Test Strips to measure parameters such as pH, nitrate, iron, lead and copper in the water.

During our Amazing Race event in April, the rangers and friends were given clues, puzzles and riddles that they needed to solve – to teach them problem-solving skills. The race took about 2 hours to completed and 45 children participated. The teams finishing first, second and third received prizes, while all participants received a certificate.

Next up – including work to be undertaken in Environment Month (June), the 15 young people will collect data at pre-determined collection points and work with residents to gather information on threats to the water, including abstraction, pollution and increased nutrient sources. Much of this work will take place with landowners living along the banks of the Isaacs and Middel Rivers.

Tackling plastic pollution head on

We’ll also start addressing the threat of pollution head on in the coming months, as the rangers use a stormwater sock to collect, count and weight land-based litter at two of our sites. The final data will be collated by August, as we develop and finalise a Source-to-Sea project plan going forward to address these threats. We’ll keep our Kogelberg Biosphere residents up to date as the plan comes together.


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