Coast KZN

21 Feb 2023

Breaking South Africa free from plastic with Taylen Reddy

Dominic Naidoo (IOL) Picture: Taylen Reddy. Taylen Reddy is a Durban-based environmental activist, researcher and BAppSc Honours student at the Durban University of Technology.

In an attempt to get in with the Gen Z crowd involved in the environmental space, I have begun a new series aimed at profiling the work this young cohort is doing for conservation, wild spaces and wildlife.

This week, I caught up with Taylen Reddy, a Durban-based environmental activist, researcher and BAppSc Honours student at the Durban University of Technology. At the age of 22, Reddy is a global youth ambassador at the Philippines-based Break Free From Plastic, a founder of Zero Waste Durban, and an intern at Ocean Uprise, a Parley for the Oceans program. The joys of youthful energy!

All this while acing a Bachelor of Applied Sciences Degree at the Durban University of Technology.

Picture: Taylen Reddy

On what led him down this path of activism, Reddy said that after volunteering for a Plastic Free Campuses initiative in 2020, he heeded the call for applications for Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) Global Youth Ambassadors.

“From there I began my ambassadorship and gained support from BFFP for the campaigns I led with my own organisation, Zero Waste Durban,” Reddy said.

Break Free From Plastic is a global movement working to achieve a future free from plastic pollution.

And he’s not just a pretty face. Reddy is also studying toward a Bachelor of Applied Sciences Honours Degree in Biotechnology.

“This would allow me to utilise my research and knowledge obtained academically to facilitate campaigns toward social and environmental justice. By understanding the chemistry and biological structure of plastics, it is easier to advocate against them by proving their harmful effects on the environment and health of the people and animals living in it,” said Reddy.

Toward the end of last year, BFFP global youth ambassadors hosted a plastic brand audit day of action which brought together scores of young people calling out the world’s top multinational plastic polluters.

Picture: Taylen Reddy

“I also represented BFFP at the 17th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth which took place a few days before COP27 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. I attended the conference with the aim of promoting a positive response towards a global plastics treaty and building capacity for INC-1, the first intergovernmental negotiations towards a legally binding treaty on plastics.”

“In an ideal world,” Reddy said, “I would love to see a ban on single-use plastics. We’ve seen examples of this being successful right here in Africa with countries like Kenya implementing the strictest ban on single-use plastics in the world, and Eritrea leading the way with a ban on plastic bags all the way back in 2005.”

Reddy believes that South Africa needs full consensus from all relevant authorities that plastic is hazardous to all life on the planet and a complete ban is of paramount importance.

Zero Waste Durban was founded as a youth initiative to radically transform and shift the narrative on plastic pollution in Durban, South Africa. The organisation envisions a future free of plastics and highlight their detrimental effect on all forms of life.

“Our work includes campaigning against the production of single-use plastics, knowledge and capacity building workshops as well as programmes centred on zero waste initiatives, including the importance of implementation of refill and reuse systems and management of food waste for diversion of waste to landfills,” Reddy said.

Zero Waste Durban is a core member of international movements such as Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), providing and gaining knowledge and skills support for campaigns from these networks.

Those who would like to join the fight against plastic pollution and push for companies to be accountable for their non-recyclable waste can check out Zero Waste Durban’s socials for more information or complete this Google form to become a member.