Knysna’s creative hub proposes straw tax

AvoPomme Creative Hub – Knysna’s first creative hub, which is situated in the town’s historic Woodmill Lane Shopping centre (and which houses ‘the universe’s smallest art gallery’) – has declared its own personal war on disposable plastic drinking straws in its Urge Urban Café.

Bernice Haman and Ricardo van Lingen, Avo Pomme Creative Hub, Woodmill Lane, Knysna. In the background: a portrait by Avo Pomme’s Artist of the Month for August, Jan Raats

“A single plastic straw on its own isn’t much of thing, but when you consider the number of straws that people use every day – and the fact that they usually just get thrown into the trash because each one is so small and apparently insignificant – then you realise that straws become both a major threat to the environment, and a symbol of plastic pollution in general,” said Ricardo L. van Lingen, who co-founded and runs AvoPomme Creative Hub with his partner, Bernice Haman.

“But everyone seems to prefer drinking with a straw – cooldrinks and juices just seem to taste better that way – so we’ve teamed up with Woodmill Lane to find various solutions that’ll be both fun and practical.
“We’re investigating whether we can get paper straws or bamboo straws, and we’ve brought in a stock of reusable glass straws which have a lifetime guarantee against breakage, and which you can buy from our retail section.

“But not everyone wants to carry their own straws around with them – so we decided to be creative, and we came up with the idea of charging a straw tax for people who insist on using plastic straws.”


And, of course, being creative is what AvoPomme is all about.

“It’s designed for creativity – for sharing ideas, for art, and for shopping, eating, and drinking,” said Ricardo.

“Like all of the world’s most hospitable places, it’s centred around food, and our coffee shop – Urge Urban Café – serves excellent light meals, coffee, cake, pressed juices, and kombucha,” said Bernie.
“And you’ll almost always see people coming in, setting up their laptops, and working here for a few hours.”

And working in other corners of the two-story shop with its terrace in the lane near the entrance to Pick n Pay: the members of the Creative Hub – including Happy Crow Tattoo Studio, Picture It Framed, Hannelie Berry, the organiser of the Local Design and Food Market, and members of Hands Design Collective (which also has a retail section in Avo Pomme Creative Hub).

“We’ve also got space for small meetings, lectures, demonstrations and children’s art and activities programmes, and our division presents regular workshops on arts, crafts, and lifestyle,” said Bernice.

And about ‘The Universe’s Smallest Art Gallery?’

“That’s ‘the universe’s smallest art gallery,’ all in small letters, please,” said Ricardo. “Because it’s a very tiny space.

“We actually have two exhibition spaces: our main exhibition area, where we feature a different artist every month (opening this coming Thursday, 7 September: an exhibition called ‘Green Living’ by Christine B.); and ‘the universe’s smallest art gallery,’ which is no bigger than the average toilet stall, and where I’m currently showing a mini-series of mounted monochrome photos taken in the aftermath of the fires, but I’ll be hanging a new exhibition of collages there from the 7th as well, telling personal stories about my journey as a person and an artist.”


“The idea of a straw tax is a bit cheeky, but it does highlight our vision for Woodmill Lane – which is to eventually become completely plastic-free,” said Anouk Edwards, the director of the Centre.

“We try to buy local wherever we can by stocking free-range and organic farm products (which you can order from us weekly), and by finding innovative new ways of existing in harmony with the world,” said Bernice.

“We want to work with Woodmill Lane to make the shopping centre as green as possible – with great initiatives that result in the production of very little waste,” said Ricardo.

“And that’s what the straw tax is all about.

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek way of asking our guests to cough up five bucks for every straw they use so that we can create awareness of the problems of plastic pollution.

“Profits will go to a local environmental NGO, and we’ll also collect the straws for re-use – possibly in a children’s crafts programme, or in some other recycling initiative.

“But if there are any NGOs out there who need them for their own projects, please come and talk to us about your plans,” he said.

  • View a short interview with Bernice and Ricardo on YouTube:
  • For an overview of the extend of the problem of straw pollution, see National Geographic’s ‘Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic by Laura Parker.’
  • To lean how you can help the fight, go to (‘Learn how to #StopSucking and save our ocean’).
  • Avo Pomme Creative Hub (, shop 45, Woodmill Lane (, 4 St. George’s St., Knysna.
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