Cleaning Camps Bay: giving back to the community!



I’ve been called many things in my life, but the one that I like the most is that I’m ‘The cleaning lady of Camps Bay’, referring to my daily walks in Camps Bay and Bakoven, wearing a gardening glove to pick up litter along the way.

Atlantic Sun reporter Shahied Joseph wanted to honour women in the Camps Bay Community, and had heard about my litter cleaning, which I have done over the past two and a half years.

The major sources of litter in our suburb are threefold:

  1. Picnickers at the Camps Bay Tidal Pool, especially in summer, and on weekends. Most picnickers leave their litter on the lawns, without putting it into the numerous green bins in the area. The attitude often is that they see me and my cleaning helpers, and therefore assume that we are there to clean after them.
  2. Homeless persons create living structures in bushes and under trees, and create a huge amount of litter, by bringing black domestic garbage bags found during the day to their ‘abode’ and scratching through them to look for things they can use or eat. They leave the mess there without putting it back into the black bags.  We try to clean the litter lying round the structures, not being allowed to remove any parts of the structure or personal belongings.
  3. Vagrants scratch the green bins, in search of food to eat, as well as empty cans and plastic bottles, which they take to our local Pick n Pay recycling machine, in return for which they receive airtime, sadly creating a mess around the green bins and ironically causing a bigger litter mess.

The story of my Litter cleaning in Camps Bay and how it started was well documented by Mr Joseph in his article:

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 July 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.”

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.

Nicola 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 city in this manner. Her dedication is exemplary and it’s a pleasure to work with her.”


Through my CAMPS BAY CLEAN. Facebook page I advertise monthly Community Beach Cleans on the last weekend of the month, which are sponsored by The 41 Restaurant, in that beach clean helpers receive a tea or coffee from the restaurant. The person picking up the most litter receives a voucher for two The 41 hamburgers. In this way I try to encourage residents to also take ownership of the litter problem.

The School Community Projects have been a huge assistance, Rondebosch Boys High learners Ben and Troy Mc William, and Hout Bay International learner Marc Ostheimer, all three living in Camps Bay, having gifted a large number of hours of litter cleaning with me this year so far. Marc wrote a report about his Litter Cleaning involvement:

CAS Creative/Activity Experience Form

.Camps Bay Clean

· Investigation

In my area, Camps Bay, I have noticed that there is more need for cleaning up. Especially after busy weekends when everybody is going to the tidal pool or the beach. I am sure that I can contribute to this. This is also a global issue with all the garbage and especially plastic that people just leave on the ground and it ends up in the ocean. The supervisor for this experience is Chris von Ulmenstein. She lives in Camps Bay and I have often seen her walking around collecting garbage from the street and the bushes. She has a Facebook account “Camps Bay Clean” where you can see what she is doing. My goal is to contribute to my community to feel more responsible about my area and in that way also grow in regards to global engagement.

· Preparation and action

I will meet Chris once per week. Usually on a Sunday afternoon. It will be Chris, myself and usually one other person to help (Chris often organises a homeless person to work with her so that he can make some money). Chris and I communicate via WhatsApp and make out a time to meet. All I need for this are some gloves and a big plastic bag.

. Reflection

In the beginning I was feeling nervous because people were looking at me. I think people were not used to seeing a white boy collecting garbage in the streets of Camps Bay. I hope I don’t sound like a racist because I am not. It was sometimes unbelievable to see all the packaging and plastic bottles that people leave behind after a day on the beach. Chris sometimes asked the people why they don’t use the bins. I must say I didn’t have the confident to ask the people. Some people even answered that they don’t need to use the bins because people like Chris an me will come to pick it up. This made be feel very sad and disappointed. How stupid can people be? I also got many compliments from various people. This made me proud and I recognised that I was doing an important and good job. I was also giving something back to my community and doing something of a global significance.

I learned that nobody should think that a job is not good enough for him. Every job contributes to something good. If I see a person today leaving their garbage behind I will stop and show the person the next bin. ‘

Please message me if you would like to be informed about Camps Bay Community Beach Cleans.

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

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