Open Oceans

Durban has the busiest port in Africa, contributing 11% to South Africa’s gross domestic product. However, pollution in the Port of Durban and its waterways is a problem for the local municipality, eThekwini. In response, Open Oceans uses technology and powerful storytelling to inform municipal policy and decision-making, empower small businesses and bring informal waste pickers into the economic mainstream.


Activities are designed to integrate different forms of waste and to promote a more circular approach to the economy, bringing together various actors in the waste management system. Drones provide image data that enables a better understanding of the cycles of plastic pollution and assists informal waste pickers operating in the arena to plan their collection cycles by informing them when to collect. In addition, through a partnership with a local lab, eyewear was produced from recycled waste, to address the impact of poor sight on children’s literacy, and to serve as an advocacy tool for prioritising ecological matters in the city.


The project demonstrates that better-integrated waste management is possible, and, through partnership, innovative products can emerge that solve social and distributive health issues.


What has been achieved

  • Inclusion in a documentary about informal waste pickers, which gave a better understanding of the movement and processing of waste in the informal sector.
  • Dialogues to educate stakeholders on how vision impairment results in learning challenges and affects the academic performance of children.
  • Production of prototype glasses made from recycled plastic.
  • The project and prototype glasses were included in an exhibition organised by “Designing Out Waste”, another IUDF seed-funded project, which was held at Daily Dosage, a shared creative space.
  • Development of a commercially viable product and demonstration of technological innovation.
  • Validation of eThekwini as a capital of innovation.
  • Awareness of plastic-preneurship economic opportunities.


Alignment with IUDF

  • Inclusion and access: bringing together actors within waste management into a more coherent system.
  • Growth: opportunities for new businesses, both in waste management and recycling.
  • Governance: municipality and empowered, active communities working together and informed about environment matters and associated opportunities.



Government: eThekwini Municipality

Civil Society: Open Oceans (NGO), community members

Business: informal waste pickers, The Maker Space

For more info click here