Nurdles clean-up leaves Durban beaches ready for festive season

2017-12-15 11:39 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town – Following thousands of South Africans coming together to rid east coast beaches of nurdles, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says that progress with clean-up has left Durban beaches ready for holidaymakers this festive season.

Nurdles are lentil-sized plastic “pellets” that never disintegrate, but merely break down into smaller and smaller fragments. "Both the nurdles and the toxins they have absorbed can enter the food chain as they are eaten by fish and other marine animals," warns the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR).

SEE: Nurdles infest Durban beaches after big storm

In October 2017, the damaged shipping container suspected to have been carrying plastic cargo and "nurdles" was located off SA's east coast, following a devastating storm in Durban.

South Africans continued to help tirelessly to collect these hazardous nurdles from east coast beaches and after “a successful clean-up” according to SAMSA, Durban’s beaches are fit for use this festive season.

ALSO SEE: UPDATE: Source of toxic nurdles posing risk to SA's marine food chain found as mass beach clean-up continues

SAMSA says that together with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Transnet National Ports Authority (TPNA), and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), it is “optimistic that KwaZulu-Natal beaches are ready for bathers and holidaymakers”.

“The support from volunteer groups who have assisted with the clean-up efforts, and the public at large has been greatly appreciated,” adds SAMSA.

3.5 Tons of nurdles retrieved

Since the collection began in October, 2000 bags of the plastic polyethylene nurdles have been retrieved – weighing at least 3.5 tons.

However, while the Durban Harbour has been declared safe and clean, authorities are still monitoring the area.

According to SAMSA, clean-up operations will now happen on the north coast as “heavy deposits of nurdles were spotted on the Northern lagoon banks”.

North Coast beaches to be cleaned include Clarke Bay, Granny’s Pool (second clean-up), Shaka’s Rock, Thomsons Beach, Mvoti beach, Villa Royale beach, and Ballito main beach. Tugela Mouth Lagoon and the Hatchery Lagoon are priority areas.

WATCH: How you can rid SA beaches of nurdles

SAMSA’s Captain Hopewell Mkhize says the clean-up process will be ongoing as “some areas have been recharged with nurdles and have to be cleaned again”. Mkhize adds that no nurdle bags were trapped underneath the bottom of the harbour area which was scanned.

“Additional resources and personnel provided by DEA have been brought to sites, and are assisting to speed up the clean-up operations,” says SAMSA, adding that during clean-up operations different types of plastics that are not nurdles were also spotted.

A cause for concern, according to DEA, is that there have been reports of nurdles washing up on beaches in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape. “These reports are of great concern and are being addressed,” says DEA.

Working for the Coast

The DEA is currently implementing its Working for the Coast programme that will clean up the entire South African coastline - over 2 113 km - and its environments throughout the year.

The programme focuses on cleaning and rehabilitating the entire South African coastline, as well as developing and maintaining coastal infrastructure.

DEA says that the Working for the Coast project is worth R300 million in Durban - for upgrading and maintaining facilities and infrastructure along the coast from Alexander Bay to Kosi Bay, thereby facilitating access to the coastline without compromising the environment.

ALSO SEE: #EcoTravels: DEA's coastal awareness campaign cleans up KZN beaches

In the Eastern Cape there are 9 projects being implemented in 15 municipalities along the coastline of 646 km, stretching from Mthamvuna River on the North East and down to Tsitsikamma on the South East.

“It is through projects such as these that we strive to bring about the balance between the social, economic and environment for sustainable living,” says DEA Minister Edna Molewa, who adds that these projects also create job employment “which forms part of the inclusive economic growth” and benefits the communities.

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