COVID-19 trash

COVID-19 Trash Threatens SA’s Water: Exclusive Interview – Tarryn Johnston

COVID-19 trash rapidly accumulates in South African waterways. In fact, the Hennops Revival NPO project in Centurion, Gauteng reports a rapid accumulation of masks and plastic gloves in the river. In our exclusive interview with Tarryn Johnstone, she says that the trash threatens South African waters.

COVID-19 trash made up of masks and medical gloves

COVID-19 regulations in South Africa require the wearing of masks in public. Fortunately, single-use medical masks lie beyond the reach of many people. Therefore, most people wear washable, reusable masks as a matter of cost-saving. Nonetheless, the founder of the Hennops Revival NPO, Tarryn Johnston, says PPE builds up already in the river.

Johnston, passionate about cleaning up South African rivers, feels driven to make change happen. She formed the NPO and inspires volunteers who help clean up the Hennops River. Ultimately, Johnston says the COVID-19 trash comes from”individual carelessness” in rubbish disposal. So, the problem arises from that rather than medical trash.

Recycling needs public participation

Johnston says a “lack of waste facilities” contributes to the problem. Apparently, people feel reluctant about carrying home rubbish. Moreover, those who take garbage home, seldom recycle properly. Actually, the entire nation needs to work together to tackle the problem, she believes.

Demanding biodegradable packing might make for a good start. Apparently, some shops stopped supplying plastic carrier bag. But, goods on the shelves remain swathed in non-biodegradable packaging. Perhaps, coupled with the public demanding less packaging, municipalities could also ensure more recycling facilities and more public dustbins.


On a positive note, Johnston feels encouraged by the number of volunteers. Unselfishly, they spend their weekends picking up rubbish along the riverbanks. Through the cleanup work, Johnston meets homeless people. There, she assists them with donated food and PPE. Interestingly, many of them want to help clean up the river. But, this requires lots of funding as they need paying work. Unfortunately, she says the number of homeless people in the area “significantly increased during the COVID lockdown.”

Johnston also says they “need more nets along the river.” They help “trap the garbage in specific spots, making cleanup easier and quicker.”

South Africa not alone with PPE trash

Recently, the BBC reported a large increase in PPE in waterways of the UK. Furthermore, in the United States, the mayor of Philadelphia asked his citizens not to flush PPE.

Remember to check.back with SAns Newsfeed often for more news about Africa

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