“Only through action, do words take meaning.”
When dealing with such an enormous problem like plastic pollution, there are very few people that are willing to step out of the crowd and fight against this problem. After working with the youth across Nelson Mandela Bay, SST has chosen Sophia Finestone (16) as the first African Youth Waste Network Ambassador, as she has been a shining example of what it means to practice what you preach. She is a determined and motivated young woman who is facing all odds to fight against plastic pollution in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Sophia’s drive started after visiting several natural museums in the USA during 2018; she was struck and moved by photos that showed the detrimental impacts that plastic pollution has on our environment. “It made me cry and cry and I knew that I had to do something about it at home in Port Elizabeth. I thought about it and realised that there were societies at school for animals and people, but we are a coastal city and we have no society at school for the ocean and ocean life, and specifically to keep our oceans clean,” Sophia said. Motivated and unshaken by the challenge, she decided to start an official society at her school, Pearson High School, called #NoPlasticFantastic. The mission of the society is two-fold. Firstly, to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic as Sophia believes that awareness will lead to action; and secondly to formulate specific activities and actions to actively help with the problem e.g. using re-usable plastic cups and plastic disposable bins for recycling.
Once the society was launched, Sophia was voted as president of the club, with a core committee of 13 members. Through the exemplary actions that this committee has taken, the #NoPlactisFantastic society now has 140 members. They have already removed all plastic straws from their school tuck shop and have replaced them with paper straws, as well as driving a successful fundraising sale of glass straws during their school break and a school derby day. This society’s successes, however, does not end within the school’s walls, but has been pushed into the public space. Presently they have arranged for a private company called RECUP to distribute re-usable plastic cups within coffee shops in the bay. On the 25th of April, their team organised a school beach clean-up and attended the SST World Oceans Day Beach Clean-up. They also had an ‘Our Plastic Art Exhibition’ at their school. From here on out they are working and making Pearson High School plastic free and connecting with other schools to join the #NoPlasticFantastic movement.
From all of Sophia’s achievements, Sophia was selected to attend the Global Youth Leaders Conference (GYLC) in Washington in June 2019, where 350 young people from 145 countries are attending to represent their country and the project they are implementing. We believe that Sophia is a true example of what it means to be an ambassador of the AYWN; someone who is motivated and unashamed to fight for a cause and rally other young people to drive this movement.
“We all pollute with plastic; we can’t really help it. It is the structure of the society we live in. But, we can all move towards change, and being critical of other people does not help. What does help is an active approach by informing people of the dangers and showing them the horrors of plastic pollution. Then, we can take active steps to reducing single-use plastics and problems associated with them. Hopefully, we can move towards a plastic free society one day” – Sophia Rinestone.