Picking up litter on the platinum mile

Ms Chris Von Ulmenstein at the Camps Bay stream where it all started.

Chris von Ulmenstein goes every day from her home in Camps Bay to the popular beach nearby and back, bending down to pick up masks, straws, paper or plastic bottles discarded along the way.

Ms Von Ulmenstein, 68, moved to Camps Bay in January 2018 and she has been walking the famed platinum mile with two goals in mind.

“When I just moved here I took a walk to the beach and I was shocked at the amount of litter on the beach and in the stream, all this litter making its way to our sea,” she explains how it all started.

“I took pictures and put it on social media so that the residents could see, I ranted and raved about this mess. Then I thought but this is no good, I grabbed a garbage bag and went back to collect the mess and I haven’t stopped because then I saw all this litter everyday. So it’s become a fitness routine and I get my 10 000 steps easily, and I want to walk in a clean environment.”

Armed with only garden gloves, Chris Von Ulmenstein throws litter in the bins along Victoria Road.

Ms Von Ulmenstein said the litter is worst on weekends, and she has seen medication, clothes, and good shoes thrown away.

“Everyday I pick up stuff, the latest being masks, you will be surprised how many masks are discarded. On the weekends there’s more people so that means there is more trash to pick up, and yet there are bins all over the place. I don’t understand why people don’t use the bins.”

The residents and the local council have shown their appreciation for her work but the social media manager says she would welcome more help as she has started a once a month community clean up.

“I’ve been told you are doing it so why must I join you. Some residents are just not interested, they think that because they pay rates and taxes the city must do it, but the city doesn’t,” she says of the lack of interest to join her daily routine.

“But there are high school students who have assisted me. It’s such a pleasure because they can do so much more especially on the steep slopes. They’ve done about 16 hours with me and they’ve asked if they can continue, so it’s great that they are community driven and committed,” said Ms Von Ulmenstein who is a member of the Camps Bay Ratepayers’s Association.

“I understand that due to Covid there’s a shortage of manpower and that the City’s clean up staff only clears out the bins, they don’t have people cleaning up daily. I got a donation of 2000 bags from the city via Nicola Jowell who is encouraging of what I do. But I’d love it if more residents got involved, the dog walkers do pick up trash, but I think if more people got involved then there’d be less of a mess. We have to realise that this litter harms our ocean life so this is my way of protecting marine life too.”

Camps Bay and Clifton Ratepayers’ Association vice-chairman Chris Willemse says they need more people like Ms Von Ulmenstein.

“We are totally supportive of what Chris is doing. I think she did this before she joined the ratepayers’ association and her portfolio is communications and enviromental, so she is doing a fabulous job on both fronts. I know that a few scholars have joined her on these clean-ups every other weekend so we look forward to seeing more of this happening,” said Mr Willemse.

Nicolla Jowell, Ward Councillor for the Camps Bay area, said: “She epitomises active citizenry which is so important and she is playing a vital role in how Camps Bay looks and feel. Two years ago she asked me to join her on a walk to look at some issues she identified and now she is co-ordinating a monthly beach clean up. Two years later I still get weekly reports on what needs to be done and it’s fantastic when citizens are willing to partner with e city in this manner. Her dedication is exemplary and it’s a pleasure to work with her.”

Ms Von Ulmenstein spots a mask on the pavement.