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When success is measured by stolen property: Cape Town’s CCID shows how to #KeepItClean

When success is measured by stolen property: Cape Town’s CCID shows how to #KeepItClean

It’s not often that an organisation can claim to use theft as a yardstick to measure a campaign’s success, but that’s precisely what the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) did with its recently concluded annual #KeepItClean campaign driven by its Urban Management department.

This year’s drive to raise public awareness about keeping the CBD’s streets clean and highlight the services the CCID provides on a daily basis was admittedly a little different though.

Instead of standard appeals not to litter, drop cigarette butts or illegally dump, the campaign included disruptive street theatre and the rollout of a cheeky poster campaign targeting problem areas in the CBD.

For the defacing of public property, the message was: “Think you’re an artist? Fine. Tagging and illegal posters could get you a R5 000 fine. Don’t deface your space!”, while littering messaging inquired: “Are you a tosser? Fine. Littering could get you a R5 000 fine. Don’t litter!”

However, it was with one of the CBD’s biggest problems that the campaign seemed to have the most success. Mobilising an early-morning cleaning team from its NGO partner Straatwerk, various notorious illegal dumping sites the CCID considers “hotspots” were targeted and a large notification of the infringement left in place for all to see.

Accompanied by a huge red arrow pointing at the dumping, the poster read:

“You are dumping illegally! Is this because:

  • You are stupid?
  • You don’t care about our CBD?
  • Your mummy still cleans up after you?
  • You actually want a R5 000 fine?

“We are watching you, and so is the public!”

According to CCID chief operating officer Tasso Evangelinos, the first measure of success was to see the public placing pictures of the posters up on social media: “From Twitter to Facebook, suddenly messaging started to appear from members of the public congratulating us on this initiative.”

Clearly, though the messaging didn’t sit well with the culprits themselves, says Evangelinos. Between the first and second day of the campaign, four posters were stolen and refuse was again dumped illegally at those sites.

“So the next day we simply put up the posters again. By day three the posters were still up and nothing further had been dumped. Within the CCID, we’re debating if it was the question about whether your mother cleans up after you or the threat of the fine, but either way it worked like a charm!”

Tons of refuse is illegally dumped on the CBD’s streets every year. Both unsightly and a health hazard, it is very costly to remove, taking up resources and man hours that could be better utilised on more constructive projects.

“Before the campaign began, we identified a couple of dozen dumping hotspots across the CBD and even where the posters were not stolen we have noted a decrease in illegal dumping. Ultimately, we hope the transgressors have taken the message to heart, and that they are now more aware of how problematic illegal dumping is for everyone who uses the CBD. We also hope the public at large and responsible tenants will help us keep the streets clean by reporting illegal dumping to the CCID’s 24-hour control centre on 082 415 7127.”

Richard Beesley, manager of the CCID’s Urban Management department, explains that the CCID and its service providers deliver top-up cleaning and urban maintenance to those provided by the primary service, the City of Cape Town. To accomplish this, the CCID keeps the “areas between the buildings” free of litter, and undertakes (among other tasks) the removal of graffiti, minor road and pavement repairs, gardening and other beautification projects.

Beesley says the second prong of the #KeepItClean disruption campaign was to make the public aware of the teams that cleaned up after them, come rain or shine. To do this, the CCID deployed performers throughout the CBD who acted out scenarios depicting the often quite severe repercussions of littering and dumping rubbish.

“Student actors from the Central City-based non-profit Rainbow Academy school of performing arts and business improvised and took part in six street performances over a three-week period. We were incredibly lucky to have the talents of professional actor and director Mandisi Sindo to direct the students. Mandisi assisted Open Streets Cape Town a few months back with their pedestrian safety activations in partnership with the Western Cape Government. As a result, each of our performances drew crowds of people, most of whom were initially quite shocked and uncertain about whether what they were seeing was real or staged.

“We wanted the campaign to drive home the message that litter, graffiti, illegal posters and rubbish left on pavements don’t just disappear – there are people cleaning up after you – and I think we succeeded.

“One should also note that this behaviour is illegal and could cost you dearly. Transgressors who are caught by Law Enforcement are eligible for stiff fines that range from R800 for basic littering to several thousands for defacing public property and illegal dumping.”

Evangelinos has the last word on the #KeepItClean campaign: “This was by far the most effective Clean Campaign the CCID has ever run and it’s clear that disruptive messaging is a very effective public education tool – even if we had to have posters pinched to prove it.”