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Watch: Street Surfers | The Overlooked Heroes Of Recycling

by Ingrid Hale
Corona X Parley Street Surfers

Big wave surfer and marine activist Frank Solomon from Cape Town takes to the streets of Johannesburg to live a day in the life of South Africa’s Street Surfers. 

This short film follows waste pickers that scour the streets for recyclables which would otherwise end up in our oceans. They are the overlooked heroes of recycling, contributing up to 90% of the country’s recycling efforts.

Frank met up with two exceptional men, Thabo and Mokete, who indirectly serve the environment through recycling as a means of income. This film shows the story of new friendships, shared experiences and common interest between individuals that are worlds apart. Street surfers navigate the busy city on flatbed trolleys as they haul large silo bags filled with recyclable materials, choosing to collect and sell waste over a life of begging, crime or unemployment. These men can be seen surfing their way through Johannesburg city centre as they take their goods to dumps around the city in exchange for cash.

Frank explains, “These guys do an incredible job for the environment. Yet they live without access to running water and electricity, things we take for granted every day. They’re up from 3 in the morning and graft all the way through to the late afternoon, it’s unreal. To earn just R300, they need to collect 100kgs of plastic. If you do the math on how many bins they’d have to sift through to reach that target, it’ll blow your mind. You know, at the very least the government and people, in general, should just respect these guys, it’ll go a long way.”

A BackaBuddy fund raiser has been started to help Thabo and Mokete. Funds raised will go to a “surfer’s pack” to make their jobs easier, which will include boots, clothing for the elements, gloves and monthly food vouchers. “With this campaign, I hope to assist the gentlemen as much as I can with food, clothes and their living expenses for as long as possible,” said Frank.

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