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Aaniyah Omardien. (Photo: Beautiful News)

Meet Aaniyah Omardien, the founder and director of the non-profit The Beach Co-Op based in Cape Town. As 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into our oceans annually, it causes a grave problem for marine life. Omardien’s organisation sets out to eliminate plastic pollution by reconnecting people with nature. 


Aaniyah, you are an incredibly dynamic woman, founder of The Beach Co-op, mother of 3 children and completing your PhD… How do you manage to do it all?

It certainly isn’t easy juggling all of those balls but being a good planner helps me manage it all. A supportive team at work and at home has also been key to being productive on all these fronts.

Your motto for The Beach Co-op is simple yet powerful: “We love the ocean and want to work with others who do too” . Where did your inspiration to start The Beach Co-op come from?

I love spending time in the ocean – surfing, swimming, snorkelling, rock pooling and exploring. Growing up in Cape Town with parents who loved the ocean and encouraged us to swim helped foster my love for the marine environment and therefore the urge to care for, and protect it.

Aaniyah Omardien. (Photo: Beautiful News)

Why are The Beach Co-op’s beach clean-ups scheduled according to the moon cycle?

We host two kinds of cleanups – sandy beach and rocky shore cleanups. Rocky shore cleanups need to take place when the tide is very low in order for us to clean an area that would be underwater if the tide was high. The tide is lowest at a new or full moon. We have chosen to clean the rocky shore at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg during the new moon and have been doing so for the last six years.

How many people join for the beach clean-ups and how has attendance been affected by COVID?

The number of attendees varies from 20 to 100. We have limited how many people may attend our cleanups during Covid by having them register before the cleanup via email.

What is the dirty dozen? Have face masks made the list yet?

I spent six months working with Kurdish refugees in war-torn northern Iraq during my early twenties. We worked with villagers to rebuild their houses after entire villages were destroyed. I was fascinated by the fact that every single family built their own home using natural building materials from their environment according to age-old methods. Since then, wherever I travelled in the world, I was always looking for the traditional ways people were building there. This inspired me to build my own house, using the same principles, but to fit into my own local context in South Africa. So, I found a small community on a farm outside of Magaliesburg that wanted to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle. That’s where I started playing around with the ideas and principles and slowly over time build my home. It is still a work in progress : )

Living a zero-waste lifestyle can be quite intimidating for most. What 3 tips could you share for reducing single-use of plastic?

  • Remember your shoppers when you go shopping to avoid buying single-use shopping bags.
  • Invest in a reusable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water.
  • Avoid buying over-packaged food wrapped in unnecessary single-use plastic

Scrolling on your Instagram, it’s prevalent how important your family and nature is to you. Do you have certain routines for you and the family to maximize your time spent outdoors?

There is no specific routine other than to get outdoors as often as possible – and that could mean spending time in our garden or riding bikes in our ‘hood. For family holidays we love road trips and exploring our country and all the natural beauty and diversity it has to offer.

Favourite podcast?

That’s a hard one – currently listening to The Sutra Show – Bayo Akomolafe on Post Activism

Favourite marine creature?

An Otter

Your star sign?


Who inspires you?

There are so many different individuals that inspire me from my parents to Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and so many others.

At Sapmok we are constantly striving to be better and do better for the environment, but there’s always room from improvement. What do you suggest can we do as a brand to assist in the most concerning ocean and marine challenges?

You could start by joining us and hosting a team-building, immersive, experiential learning beach cleanup. In addition, ensuring that any unnecessary single-use plastic is avoided for packaging of your products would be key.

Follow The Beach Co-Op

Written and interviewed by Ursula Botha

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