New data shows how badly polluted Cape Town’s vleis are
World’s first-ever virtual museum of plastic
New microplastics study a first for the African continent
SA’s first polystyrene recycling hub opens in Atlantis
Collaborator of the Month: Food Agency Cape Town (FACT)

To diarise
World Soil Day: 5 December
International Mountain Day: 11 December
Documentary festival inspires urgent community action

Interesting reads
Let’s get moving
COP26: 5 climate change factors impacting non-profit organisations
Why gardeners are saving the world

We are loving …
Detpak’s new Enveloop delivers sustainable courier bags
Puma to pilot biodegradable Re:Suede sneakers
Sleep well at night knowing your bottles are recycled

 Who are Mycelium?  

Welcome  by Lara Taylor

“It’s that time of year…”

I have been hearing that phrase quite a lot lately as work ramps up, everyone gets busier and people start to look frazzled and weary. And of course there’s two years of COVID… But let’s not talk about that for now! Let’s rather focus on the change and impact that we are all making in our own small or big ways.

As humans we generally endeavour to do better and there have been some amazingly inspiring projects that have happened this and last year. Whether the changes are due to the shove that COVID has given us or just the fact that Mother Nature really needs some nurturing. We have made a difference. So instead of feeling down and out and exhausted, let’s pat ourselves on the back for surviving. For striving and for keeping hopeful that things can and will and are changing.

New data shows how badly polluted Cape Town’s vleis are

The City of Cape Town has released water quality test results for Zeekoevlei, Zandvlei, Rietvlei and Milnerton lagoon for May to October 2021. All four waterbodies have been closed to the public for months due to dangerously high levels of E. coli (a bacteria found in human faeces). The results show that all four waterbodies still have E. coli levels far higher than what the City considers acceptable for contact. E. coli is measured in colony-forming units (cfu) per 100ml. The city considers levels over 4001 cfu/100ml to be an “unacceptable risk” for public health and recreational use.

Results from Zeekoevlei, which closed in July this year, taken on 29 October, show at three different sampling points over 100,000 cfu/100ml. Outside the Zeekoevlei Yacht Club it was as high as 980,000 cfu/100ml, and 940,000 cfu/100ml at the inlet of the Big Lotus River.

The City was putting measures in place to rehabilitate the water, but a sewage spill in mid-October caused E. coli levels to rise drastically again. Tom Schwerdtfeger, vice chairperson of the Friends of Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei, said that they had been “almost there”, with the vlei opening again. Now, another worry is that hyacinth, an invasive species, is spreading rapidly as a result of the sewage in the water.

Zandvlei Estuary initially closed in May for four months before it reopened to the public at the beginning of October. The water quality results showed that before the vlei reopened, the E. coli count had been decreasing since August until it became acceptable for public use once again. But the vlei was only open for about two weeks before the City announced it had to be closed again on 22 October. E. coli count in the water skyrocketed on 15 October. Five sampling points on this date measured over 100,000 cfu/100ml.

The latest results, taken on 29 October, measured 430,000 cfu/100ml at a sampling point opposite the Imperial Yacht Club. On the same day, some lower counts of E. coli were also recorded with 7,800 cfu/100ml at the northern area of the vlei, 5,800 cfu/100ml at a sampling point in the outlet channel, and 3,800 cfu/100ml at rubber weir. After Zandvlei closed again, the City said in a statement that it is “working around the clock to determine the source of the high levels of E. coli”.

The latest water quality tests done at Rietvlei, which has been closed since late June, measures E. coli counts far above acceptable levels at two sampling points. On 29 October, 460,000 cfu/100ml was measured at a stormwater channel and 82,000 cfu/100ml at another sampling point. However, three other samples on this same day showed levels well below the 4001 cfu/100ml benchmark.

The City also released the water quality test results of Milnerton lagoon and the Diep River from January 2020 to October 2021. The lagoon has had pollution problems for many years due to untreated sewage flowing from informal settlements and failures at the Potsdam Wastewater Treatment Works, according to a City statement.

The water quality results show that sampling points in the lagoon and Diep River have often measured levels of E. coli way above the acceptable limit, however readings have varied dramatically since January last year. The latest measurements on 15 October showed over 1 million cfu/100ml at a sampling point in the Diep River and 69,000 cfu/100ml at the mouth of the Diep River.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has recently released a statement calling on the City to make water quality test results of the Diep River estuary and Milnerton lagoon “easily available” for residents, and that these should be published regularly.

This article was originally published on GroundUp.

World’s first-ever virtual museum of plastic

Baz-Art, an NPO specialising in creating public engagement through urban art, and Greenpop, an eco-activist organisation, have joined hands with the UK Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality company to open the world’s first virtual museum – The Museum of Plastic 2121. Delivering a nuanced take that’s sensitive and insightful, the virtual museum is set in the future, looking back on a version of the present where we decide to ban single-use plastics and manage to curb climate destruction.

Visitors can uncover the story of plastic – its history, science, industry and impact on our environment. They will also learn the importance of establishing a circular economy, and find out how activism and individual action happening now will lead to positive change in the future. Commissioned by the British Council, the Museum of Plastic showcases the work of six South African mural artists – Cheeky Observer, Ellena Lourens, Dirty Native, Silas Ras Moetse, Wayne BKS and Mernette Swartz. Each artist has painted a real-world plastic-pollution-themed mural, which has been digitally inserted into the Museum of Plastic on the Curatours platform.

The Curatours platform is accessible through smart devices (cellphones, laptops and tablets) and VR headsets, ensuring that groups of international active citizens and virtual experience seekers can easily have social, learning-based experiences around the exhibition. The museum includes six wings, each with a different environmental theme that fits a time period from the 1800s to the year 2121. The first museum wing was launched on 8 November, with the additional wings launching each week thereafter.

Baz-Art co-founder Alexandre Tilmans commented: “Throughout history, art has been a powerful medium to communicate a message and change the world. We’re hoping that this experience engages a global audience and shows people that we can change our future if we act now. This is not your average museum. It comprises ground-breaking creative commissions that bring together art, science and digital technology to create an unforgettable immersive experience.”

You can visit The Museum of Plastic 2121 through the Curatours app which is available for Oculus Quest VR headsets and Windows PCs.

SA’s first polystyrene recycling hub opens in Atlantis

South Africa’s first community polystyrene brick-making factory using recycled polystyrene has just opened its doors in Atlantis outside of Cape Town. The
Khaya Khanya Atlantis Lightweight Concrete Factory is the first franchise of many that will be established in municipalities around South Africa over the next five years. The factory is expected to process and recycle a minimum of 25 tonnes polystyrene per month and will help to grow its recycling rate by at least 5% within the first year.

According to Adri Spangenberg, the polystyrene executive at Polyco, this has been a dream come true for the polystyrene industry after seven years of planning, discussions with key roleplayers and efforts to get the necessary funding approved. Developed and patented by Hilton Cowie, the Envirolite Concrete bricks and screeds are manufactured using a combination of recycled polystyrene and a special cement aggregate. These bricks are being used to build everything ranging from RDP houses, clinics and shopping malls to commercial buildings and designer homes. An 80m² RDP house, for example, contains a minimum of 550kg of polystyrene.

“Hilton proved that his bricks are waterproof, fireproof and offers excellent insulation against cold, heat and sound. The building process is easier, faster and cheaper, plus it uses the waste removed from the community in a positive way that offers long-term benefits. The tremendous growth experienced in the demand for these bricks made us realise that we could roll out factories on a large scale by establishing polystyrene recycling hubs in impoverished communities where the waste crisis, housing backlogs and unemployment figures are at its worst,” Adri explained.

For more information, visit or email az.oc.aynahkayahk@selbmuH.elseiL. Tel: (021) 285-0301/2 . 


New microplastics study a first for the African continent

Dr Gideon Idowu, an Environmental Chemist at Nigeria’s Federal University of Technology Akure (Futa) and the recipient of this year’s Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer Grant, wants to know how serious the plastic problem is in Africa. He will use the $150 000 research prize to expand his research from the effects of surgical facemask pollution to microplastics across African marine and riverine systems.

Just like disposable masks, other single-use plastic products break down in the environment into smaller pieces called microplastics. Less than 5mm in size, microplastics have been the subject of growing concern over the past 20 years, particularly in relation to marine life.

The tiny plastic particles look like a tasty snack to fish and turtles and are readily consumed by filter-feeding shellfish like mussels and oysters. Microplastics have shown up everywhere researchers have looked – from alpine lakes to the bottom of the ocean, and even in table salt, beer, air and tap water. We’re accidentally consuming them too. It’s estimated that humans ingest about a credit card’s worth or microplastics every year.

The effects of this microplastic ingestion on animals has been the subject of much scientific study, giving rise to several theories on how they could be problematic. For one, their foreign presence can irritate cells or tissues if ingested or inhaled. However, data on the microplastic status in Africa is inadequate.

Idowu remarks, “the bulk of microplastics research has been done in the developed world. Compared to these places, in Africa rural communities still depend directly on rivers for drinking water due to inadequate water infrastructure. As scientists working in Africa, we must look at these people’s exposure to microplastics and associated chemicals.” With the JWO Grant, Idowu is seeking to provide a clearer picture of the microplastic threat and use his results to instigate change in environmental policies across Africa. Idowu hopes that his research will inspire governments not only to enforce anti-pollution laws but that more African countries will follow in the footsteps of Rwanda and Kenya, which have banned single-use plastic bags.

Collaborator of the month: Food Agency Cape Town

Food Agency Cape Town (FACT) grew out of a participatory research project that  explored the state of food security in marginalised communities around Cape Town during the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. It also aimed to assess how much agency people felt they had with regards to their food access and choices.  “Agency” refers to how much power people feel they have to make free choices and to have control.

Following this the participants felt that it was important to hold community dialogues. These will unpack the food system, create spaces to talk about hunger and deepen local understandings of food as commons while experimenting with local solutions to identified challenges.  The dialogues are being held in Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Ocean View, Mitchell’s Plain and Masi.

Some of their current objectives are to destigmatize hunger and build community kitchens as hubs of wellbeing. They are also working on building the co-researchers’ voices as an aim to decolonise academia.

Mycelium has been working with FACT through the Urban Food Futures program instigated by TMG. We’ve had the joy of working alongside Sanelisiwe Nyaba (Mimi), as she communicates the journey of FACT. We have just completed editing a play that Mimi and her creative team have put together to express some of the challenges that urban female farmers face. This will be featured at the Critical Food Studies Conference. Mimi has also been producing some amazing podcasts that authentically and creatively express their work.

Podcasts – Uphakantoni
First Episode: Uphakantoni questions the content of what’s being dished up.
Second episode: This episode traces a journey of the research around food insecurity conducted in 2020, by engaging the co-researcher voices and how they play part in the larger community visions that evolved out of the research.

DIARISE: World Soil Day: 5 December

Soil salinization and sodification are major soil degradation processes threatening ecosystem and are recognized as being among the most important problems at a global level for agricultural production, food security and sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions. World Soil Day 2021 (#WorldSoilDay) and its campaign “Halt soil salinization, boost soil productivity” aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

TO WATCH: Mycelium founder member Lara Taylor’s stop-motion compost video which was nominated to participate in the Mobile Film Festival, which this year centres on the theme, Making Peace with Nature. Read more about Lara and the film here

DIARISE: International Mountain Day: 11 December

The United Nations General Assembly designated 11 December “International Mountain Day”. As of 2003, it has been observed every year to create awareness about the importance of mountains to life, to highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development and to build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world. The theme this year will be sustainable mountain tourism which attracts around 15 to 20 percent of global tourism. Tourism, however, is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting economies, livelihoods, public services and opportunities on all continents. In mountains, the restrictions of the pandemic have further compounded the vulnerabilities of mountain communities. This crisis can be seen as an opportunity to rethink mountain tourism and its impact on natural resources and livelihoods, to manage it better, and to harness it towards a more resilient, green and inclusive future.

DIARISE: Documentary festival inspires urgent community action

PPL°WX – People’sWeather is providing hope through its six-week Climate+ Festival that aims to inspire on-the-ground change to literally save the planet. Climate+ features on PPL°WX – People’sWeather – Africa’s first and only 24/7 weather, environmental news and lifestyle channel – in partnership with powerful environmentally-driven organisations WaterBear, Green Renaissance, Rewild Africa and NEWF. The series will showcase a variety of insightful international documentaries such as After the Wildfires, Electric Odyssey, Hurricane and Day Zero, among many others. And, in support of Cop26, People’sWeather and NEWF are also encouraging viewers to submit 26-second video messages of change, hope and action which will feature throughout the festival. Catch Climate+ on PPL°WX – People’sWeather (DStv CH-180 and Openview CH-115) throughout November until 11 December 2021.


Let’s get moving

COP26 may have been one of the last chances to head off devastating climate change, and yet, the best and boldest action our leaders could envision for transportation was the universal adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) — with a vague nod to active and public transport. It’s about bringing different land uses closer together to make it possible to live, work and shop in your neighbourhood. It’s about connecting communities with cycling and public transport infrastructure for longer trips.
The Conversation

COP26: 5 climate change factors impacting non-profit organisations

The COP26 global climate summit, which recently took place in Glasgow, Scotland, is a stark reminder that climate change is a reality confronting all humanity. It will usher in major changes affecting our lives and those of future generations. Such developments will impact non-profits (NPOs) and social justice organisations by introducing both new opportunities and new risks. NPOs should inform themselves and plan accordingly. Africa hosts the 27th climate summit next year at Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea in Egypt. This leaves only 12 months for NPOs to plan and prepare on how to contribute and make an impact. 

Why gardeners are saving the world

During the First and Second World Wars, governments on both sides of the conflict promoted home vegetable gardening. These “Victory Gardens” were promoted in order to build citizen morale as well as to reduce pressure on the country’s food supply. Just as during the World Wars, today’s gardener is also helping to fight climate change. 
The Green Times


… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a more sustainable world.

Detpak’s new Enveloop delivers sustainable courier bags

A pioneering South African innovation has produced a unique eco-friendly packaging alternative for the courier industry, called Enveloop. The paper courier bag by Detpak is biodegradable, compostable and the glues and inks are water-based to minimize the effect on the environment. For more information about Enveloop and Detpak’s extensive range of packaging solutions, visit, call +27 (0)11 077 0800 or email

Puma to pilot biodegradable Re:Suede sneakers

Sportswear company Puma has developed an experimental iteration of its famous ‘Suede sneaker’ to make it biodegradable. The Re:Suede shoe is made from more sustainable materials such as Zeology tanned suede, biodegradable TPE and hemp fibres. Designed to help address the challenge of waste management in the footwear industry, the experiment will allow Puma to take more responsibility when it comes to tackling the ‘after life’ of its products. The pilot will launch in January 2022, offering 500 selected participants in Germany the chance to join Puma on its experimental journey towards circularity.

Participants will wear their Re:Suedes for six months to test out the durability of a product using biodegradable materials in real life, before sending them back to Puma via a take-back infrastructure, designed to move the products to the next step in the experiment. The sneakers will then be subject to an industrial biodegradation process in a controlled environment at Valor Compostering B.V., owned by Ortessa Groep B.V., a family-run business of waste specialists in the Netherlands. The goal of this step is to determine if Grade A compost can be produced for agricultural use. The findings will help Puma assess the biodegradable process and unpick essential research and development for the future of sustainable shoe consumption.

Sleep well at night knowing your bottles are recycled

Advances in recycling technology have now made it possible to turn polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles into a luxurious knit fabric called Reborn, which is used in the latest Ecolux range of Slumberland mattresses. Through this process, recycled bottles are chopped into plastic chips, which are then ground up and reformulated. This material is extruded into a yarn which can be woven to make luxurious mattress fabrics. Finally, an anti-microbial finish is given to the yarn to promote hygienic sleep and long-lasting protection against dust mites and odours. Recycled bottles are also used in the eco-base border and the eco-insulator pad, which ensures you don’t feel the metal springs at the heart of your bed. Even the feet of the Slumberland beds are 100% made from recycled PET bottles. Now you can sleep more soundly, knowing that you are playing your part in creating a liveable, greener planet for everyone.

Thank you for reading our monthly newsletter! Please share this with like-minded friends or join our conversations on Facebook and Instagram.


The world is facing an unprecedented crisis, significant environmental degradation, deepening social inequality and economic collapse. These interlinked crises are exacerbated by man-made climate change. We will only overcome these challenges and be able to bring about a sustainable and regenerative world by working together to rebuild our connections and relationships with natural systems, and with each other. Mycelium is a collaboration of multi-media content creators focused on showing what a sustainable and regenerative world could look like, and how to get there. We do this by raising awareness and showcasing examples, and by growing the number of practitioners able to support this mission.

Our values are based on those of the International Co-operative Alliance: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. We also embrace the values of collaboration, honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Our value system acknowledges the need to combat the significant levels of inequality in South Africa, particularly those related to race and gender. We have chosen to work through the cooperative model because it offers economies of scale and scope, increased bargaining power, a space for learning, and the ability to offer value to our members and broader society.

Membership to the Mycelium Media Colab is open to multimedia storytellers, artists and regenerators that share our vision collaborative and transformative change. It offers a networking and support space for members to share skills and inspiration, and creatively cross-pollinate, as well as a platform and organisational structure for projects that require a team.  Ownership of projects is shared between the creators and the co-operative. Contact for more information and visit