Coast KZN

25 Oct 2017

Millions of ecologically disastrous pellets on their way to Mozambique

Shelley Seid () Picture: A full bag of plastic nurdles washed up on the Mtunzini coastline, more than 100km north of where the environmentally-harmful pellets fell off a ship during a mega-storm two weeks ago.

The tens of millions of plastic pellets that have found their way into the sea after a mega-storm two weeks ago are now likely to reach Mozambique.

This was a “monumental” problem‚ said Caroline Reid‚ secretary of the KZN Marine Waste Network.

The tiny pellets of plastic – known as nurdles – are the raw material used in the manufacture of plastic products.

Reid called the spillage an ecological disaster.

“The worn-down microfragments block filter feeders and clog respiratory gills. They look just like fish eggs‚ which impacts birds as well as marine animals‚” she said.

It is believed that a container of nurdles fell from a ship during the KZN storm of October 10. Reid said the lentil-sized pieces of plastic were most likely in the Agulhas current and would spread to Port Elizabeth and beyond. Some nurdles have already washed up along the Transkei coast.

Conservationists are also concerned that the nurdles may spread north and penetrate the iSimangaliso Wetland Park‚ a World Heritage Site. Fuelling this fear is the fact that a 25kg sealed bag of nurdles was found this week in Mtunzini at Umlalazi Nature Reserve‚ more than 100km north of Durban. Each bag contains tens of millions of nurdles.

This is apparently not the first full bag that has been found.

Jone Porter‚ the director of education at uShaka Sea World‚ has confirmed that nurdles have been found in Mbotyi in the Eastern Cape. She said that the further they spread‚ the worse the impact.

The issue‚ which has been referred to the Department of Environmental Affairs‚ is of national concern. Co-ordinated cleanup efforts are taking place along the province’s coastline and the public are urged to assist. Collection points have been set up in all affected areas.

“The nurdles must not be thrown away. They will simply end up in the ocean‚” said Reid. “They also should not be taken to recyclers. They have salt damage and cannot be repurposed.”

Members of the public who have information on where nurdles have been sighted are asked please to upload their feedback on‚ an initiative in collaboration with the KZN Department of Economic Development‚ Tourism and Environmental Affairs.


Online Article