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Project Duration: Long Term

Coast  KZN  Beaches  Storms  Management  Conservation  Tourism 

About this category:

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CoastKZN is the data gathering and collection hub for information relating to the nurdle spill along our coast. Every bit of information is important and feeds into our database towards a “big picture” view of the catastrophe. The current data displayed reflects inputs from external sources and are currently incomplete. Please contact us if you would like to contribute to this bigger picture and help us fill the gaps.

What are Nurdles?

A nurdle is a very small plastic pellet which serves as raw material in the manufacture of plastic products. Nurdles are mostly made from synthetic substances, some even derived from petrochemical products that give them high mouldability for the manufacture of familiar plastic products.

In the raw stage (pre-moulded and packaged) they are not toxic to touch, but probably shouldn’t be chewed given the unknown synthetics that make up the pellets. However, once released into the marine environment they have a high attraction to harmful substances such as land-based pesticides, herbicides, other organic pollutants as well as heavy metals that end up in the ocean. At this stage they are very harmful to life and should not be ingested.

Nurdles never disappear or disintegrate, they break down into smaller pieces and are harmful to animals which mistake them for food items. Not only are they toxic, but they cannot be digested, causing digestive blockages, starvation and death.

Nurdle Spill - 10 October 2017

A spillage occurred from a shipping container incident in Durban harbour, precipitated by the recent storm. It is estimated that approximately 49 tons of nurdles were lost at sea during this incident. Local currents and winds are distributing the nurdles far and wide.

How can you help?
Everyone can assist us in ridding our beaches of nurdles. It is a mammoth task and will require thousands of people up and down the coast to make a dent in the accumulated pellets. Every little bit helps!

What you need
Please take hand nets, shadecloth, colanders, sieves and buckets. Watch this video posted by SAAMBR for a step-by-step guide to cleaning up nurdles.

Equipment that works best:
  • 1m green 40% shadecloth or
  • 1m black 60% Shadecloth or
  • Pool net (3mm-5mm mesh)
  • 10l or 20l bucket with water
  • Colander or sieve
Please remember to take the following precautions:
  • Wear sunblock and a hat
  • Watch out for sharp objects
  • Be aware of tides


Method 1
  • Scrape nurdles together on dry sand
  • Place on sieve/ shadecloth to remove sand
  • Place mix in bucket of water and swirl. Nurdles will float to surface.
  • Scoop nurdles from surface
Method 2
  • Scrape nurdles together on sand and place on shadecloth
  • Close shadecloth and carry sand to waters edge
  • Allow waves to wash sand from shadecloth.
  • Remove nurdles from shadecloth.


Survey form when collecting nurdles

Any additional information about your nurdle collection is very valuable to our research so please fill out this form below when you're collecting nurdles along the coast. To open this survey form in a new page follow this link.

How & Why to Drop Off

It is important that nurdles should not end up in landfills, so should not be disposed of in general waste. Very few recyclers can process nurdles collected from the beach. Nurdles should be placed in a sealed bag and taken to a Drop-Off point listed below and indicated on the map below.

Place the nurdles into a sealed bag, remembering to include your name, date and where collected and fill out this Survey Form.

NOTE: WildOceans/SAAMBR will shortly be providing 300 specially labelled bins and will have a form for your collection information.

Drop-Off Points

  • uMlalazi Nature Reserve- Entrance Gate, Mtunzini
  • iZinkwazi Ski Boat Club, Zinkwazi
  • Sheffield Beach
  • uMhlali Recycling Centre- next to BP garage
  • Salt rock Caravan Park, Salt Rock
  • Hops Restaurant, Ballito
  • Ballito Ski Boat Club, Ballito
  • Westbrook Lifeguards, Westbrook North
  • Beach Bums, Westbrook
  • Seabelle Restaurant, La Mercy
  • La Mercy Beach Hotel, La Mercy
  • La Mercy Lagoon Cafe, La mercy
  • uMdloti Lifesavers hut
  • Spud Fish and Chips Restaurant, uMdloti
  • Cabana Beach Resort- towel kiosk, uMhlanga
  • uMhlanga Rocks Surf Lifesaving Club
  • Circus Circus Café, North Beach
  • California Dreaming
  • Wedge beach Lifeguards
  • Afros Chicken, South Beach
  • Surf Riders, South Beach
  • uShaka- ticketing office
  • Durban Undersea Club, Vetch's Beach

  • Simply the Best Fishing Charters, Durban Harbor
  • Pescador ABM Charters, Durban Harbor
  • Sea Mission, Durban Harbor
  • BAT Centre, Durban Harbor
  • Point Yacht Club, Durban Harbor
  • Dutch Club, Bluff
  • Green Dolphin, Bluff
  • Surf- lifesaving, Brighton Beach
  • Environmental Education Centre, Treasure Beach
  • Thirsty Whale, Amanzimtoti
  • Toti Canoe Club, Amanzimtoti
  • Warnadoone Ski Boat Club, Doonside
  • Warnadoone Lifesaving Club, Doonside
  • Shangri la Holiday Flats, Doonside
  • Baggies Beach Ski Boat Club, Kingsburgh
  • Lifesaving Club, Winkelspruit
  • Aliwal Dive Centre, Aliwal Shoal
  • Happy Wanderers, Kelso
  • Riverbend Crocodile Farm, Southbroom
  • Cutty Sark- Scuba Xcursion
  • Shark Cage Diving, Rocky Bay
  • Jolly Roger, Hibberdene
  • M & R Mechanical Workshop
  • Buccaneers
  • The Waffle House
Eastern Cape
  • Offshore Africa
  • Outspan Inn
  • East London Aquarium
  • Bayworld
Western Cape
  • Die Ou Pastorie, Groot Brakrivier
  • Shark Lab Aquarium, Mosselbay
  • Cyber South Internet Security, Dana Bay
  • Koffie Stories, Gouritz
  • Lavender Social Cafe, Still Bay
  • SA Shark Conservancy, Hermanus
  • Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town
  • Nature's Valley Trust
  • Plettenberg Bay Tourism
  • Boggomsbaai Beach Kiosk
  • Springerbaai- front gate, Springerbaai
  • Kanon beach car park or Kanon village gate


As a concerned member of the public, your participation in cleanups and in providing information is important. If you are on the beach and have seen nurdles, please take a photograph and upload through our Contribute function on the Story Map below.

How to contribute using the Story Map tool below
  1. Click on +Contribute / +Participate below
  2. Upload a Photo of nurdles on the beach
  3. Enter a Title
  4. Enter Location and click on map to confirm or move marker to exact location
  5. Enter a Description including date, relative quantity of nurdles and your name (if you wish to be acknowledged)

Once a contribution has been approved it will be visible on the map so remember to have a look at the Story Map a few days later to view your contribution. Explore the map and gallery that are updated continuously. The black points on the map show all the current drop-off points. Click on a point to view more information (if you experience any difficulty viewing the map please let us know here).

The public is applauded for their effort in collecting nurdles, organising cleanups, creating awareness and contributing to our database. Thank you to each and every one of you for making a difference.

Please view the map below which shows public contributions of nurdles sightings along South Africa's coastline over time. The contributions are from various sources including CoastKZN, KZN Marine Waste Network and various other social media sources. Click on the About button (top right) for more information on using the time slider and navigating the map.

Tasked Response Efforts
Collecting plastic nurdles from along the entire KZN coast is now seen as a long term task. It has involved many concerned members of the public in addition to appointed and volunteer organisations. WildOceans has been tasked with coordinating the collection effort from three sources: RESOLVE / DRIZIT (appointed by MSC Shipping), A R Brink and Associates, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA: Working for the Coast teams) and the volunteer effort from the KZN Marine Waste Network.

Latest Feedback
The cleanup operations will be halted at all popular bathing areas along the KZN coast from December 15, 2017 till January 8, 2018. Plastic nurdles cleanup operations will now focus on priority estuaries and remote beaches in KwaZulu-Natal to allow bathers and beach users access to enjoy the festive period without interruptions. Some of the areas which have been prioritized for now are the uThukela Mouth and aMatigulu/ iNyoni lagoon.

Data Collection
Weekly reports are sent by WildOceans to CoastKZN for uploading of data. The map and graphs below shows the coordinated cleanup effort. “Zones” refer to the 5 regions allocated to the DEA Working for the Coast teams.

NOTE: While there are presently gaps in the data collected, this should improve with time and as formal collecting teams become more familiar with the data collecting process that complements the cleanup effort. Collectors are presently using supermarket shopping bags, without standardisation of size and/or weight collected. They will have scales provided so that this can be done in future. We are awaiting the standardisation of what they refer to as “bags”.

Data Available to Date

The map below shows official contributions of nurdles cleanups along the coastline over time shown as effort (# bags collected / # collectors). To begin the timeline click play on the time slider (bottom). To view more information about each cleanup click on a point on the map. To find out further how to navigate the map and use the time slider, click on the About button (top right).

Effort Report Summary - 29 January 2018

Report 1:          Week 1 (20th - 28th November 2017)


  • EPIP teams, consisting of 179 workers, reported to have collected 131 bags of nurdles.
  • Zones 2, 3, 4 and 5 were reported on with nurdles collected and a total of 13 areas being cleaned.
  • The most affected areas in Zone 3 were Dokodweni, with 63 bags of nurdles collected, and Tinley Manor, with 12 bags of nurdles collected.
  • In Zone 4, Durban’s main beaches were reported to have the highest nurdles present with 16 bags of nurdles collected.


  • Reported to have collected 101,5 bags of nurdles. Zones 3 and 4 were reported on this week with nurdles collected and a total of 9 areas being cleaned.
  • Hatchery lagoon has been reported to have the highest concentration of nurdles to date and is marked as a priority area. 50 bags have been collected on the 27th and 28th Nov. The RESOLVE/ DRIZIT team has increased from 40 to 63 workers at Hatchery.


Report 2:          Week 2 (29th November - 8th December 2017)


  • EPIP teams increased their number of workers from 179 (in week 1), to 186.
  • All five zones were reported on with nurdles collected in each zone, with 27 areas being cleaned.
  • The total number of bags collected in week 2 was substantially lower than the previous week (week 1= 131, week 2= 79).


  • Reported to have collected 221 bags of nurdles.
  • Zones 3 and 4 were reported on this week with nurdles collected and a total of 9 areas being cleaned.
  • They reported that they would focus on the Amatikulu areas, and once these are cleared will move on to the North Coast.


Report 3:          Week 3 (9th - 17th December 2017)

Due to the timing of the year the number of DEA workers along the coast was reduced (from 179 in week 1, 186 in week 2) to 124 in Week 3. Only Zone 3, 4 and 5 were reported on. Nurdles were collected in each of these zones, with 5 areas being cleaned. Total number of bags collected was substantially lower than previous weeks (week 1= 131, week 2= 79, week 3= 48). 

Zones that were not reported on by DEA in week 3:
1. Amatikulu to Umfolozi: No collection was done due to rains
2. Umfolozi to Kosi Bay: No collection was done as nothing had been cited in that coastal stretch.

Efforts were concentrated in Zone 3 for week 3. Once iZinkwazi, uMvoti, and Dokodweni had been cleared, the RESOLVE/ DRIZIT teams for those areas were disbanded until January 2018.

Report 4:          Week 4 (18th December 2017 - 7th January 2018)
Continued to concentrate their efforts in Zone 3 for week 4
. Whilst the uMvoti area had been cleaned briefly, most efforts were directed to the Dokodweni area, where the highest concentration of nurdles are still being found to date.  On the 5th January, a beach inspection between uThukela Mouth North Bank and Dokodweni was carried out and two SABIC 25kg nurdle bags were found on the beach 10km north of uThukela Mouth. The bags were half filled with nurdles and sand. 

Has started inspecting beaches in both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, however, no significant traces of nurdles have been found yet. RESOLVE/ DRIZIT will be inspecting Western Cape beaches between Eerstesteen and Melkbos, as well as the Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape.
Report 5:          Week 5-6 (8th - 29th January 2018) 

DEA: No reports

Have continued to focus on dense areas including Dokodweni, Port Dunford, and Durban’s main beaches.

  • Efforts were concentrated in Zone 3 over this period. Dokodweni still remains the area with the highest nurdle deposit this far with 179 bags of nurdles collected during this period alone.
  • Cleanups were intermittently interrupted due to dangerous weather conditions and the spill of medical waste following heavy wave action.
  • There have been discoveries of buried nurdles and cleanup process have been undertaken accordingly. Empty and partially filled SABIC bags are still being found during inspections.
  • Whilst RESOLVE/ DRIZIT have stated that inspection of Eastern Cape and Western Cape beaches are completed, no clean-ups in these provinces have been reported yet.

Waste Network:
Have raised concerns about the density of nurdle recharge at the Royal Natal Yacht Club and surrounding areas near the harbour including the Maritime Museum, BAT centre and the tugs on the pathway. Nurdle recharge has also been noted in Umhlanga.

Report 6:          Week 7 (30th January - 6th February 2018) 


  • Focused on zones 3, 4 and 5.
  • The highest number of bags of nurdles were collected from Dokodweni.
  • DEA have started nurdle clean-ups in the Eastern Cape.


  • Have focused on the dense areas including Dokodweni, uMlalazi, and Durban’s main beaches.
  • Efforts were concentrated in Zone 4 over this period. The highest number of bags of nurdles collected was from Durban Harbour, with 34 bags

Waste Network:
Have been distributing official Nurdle Drop Off Bins along the KZN Coast.

The data below is a summary of the nurdle collections by RESOLVE / DRIZIT and DEA. The data displays areas covered between the 20th November and 8th December 2017.

Zones Report 1:
21-28 Nov 2017
Report 2:
29 Nov- 8 Dec 2017
Report 3:
9-17 Dec 2017
Report 4 :
18 Dec- 7 Jan 2018
Report 5:
8 Jan 2018- 29 Jan 2018
Report 6
30 Jan 2018- 6 Feb 2018
Zone 1
Kosi Bay- Umfolozi
 iSimangaliso No activity  DEA
 Banga Nek    KZN Waste Network
Zone 2
Umfolozi- Amatikulu
 Port Dunford

 uMlalazi Beach    DEA
Zone 3
Amatikulu- Tongaat

 Christmas Bay      RESOLVE/ DRIZIT
 Ballito/ Salt Rock  DEA  DEA  DEA  DEA  DEA  
 Salmon Bay    RESOLVE/ DRIZIT
 Westbrook Beach    RESOLVE/ DRIZIT
Zone 4
Tongaat- Mahlongwa
 Bay of Plenty  RESOLVE/ DRIZIT

 uMdloti  RESOLVE/ DRIZITDEA          
 Magret Bacon   RESOLVE/ DRIZIT          
 Reunion    DEA DEA  DEA
 iSiphingo  DEA    DEA  DEA  DEA   DEA
  Tyger Rocks    DEA DEA  DEA
Zone 5
Mahlongwa- Umthumvuna
 Marina Beach  DEA

*Areas that were reported to be the most problematic in that week

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