Coast KZN

21 Dec 2017

Nurdle pollution clean-up shifts to KZN’s more remote beaches

Thobeka Ngema (Daily News) Picture: SAAMBR

The clean-up of nurdles has been moved to remote beaches and estuaries over the festive season, said the Joint Operations Committee (JOC).

The committee consists of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa), Department of Environmental Affairs, Transnet National Ports Authority, the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Mediterranean Shipping Company and South African Local Government Association (Salga).

Samsa said the clean-up would focus on these remote areas to allow beach users to enjoy the festive period without interruption.

It added that at least 3.5 tons of nurdles had been recovered, and that the authorities were working tirelessly to track and recover the plastic polyethylene beads lost from shipping containers.

“Four containers fell off vessels in Durban’s harbour when ships lost their moorings during the storm, of which two containers were carrying nurdles,” read a statement from Samsa.

Captain Hopewell Mkhize, a Samsa principal officer who is based in Durban, said the committee reminded the public that nurdles in a bathing area would not make it unsafe for bathing and beach-related activities.

“The major clean-up operations will be halted until January 8 at all popular bathing areas along the coast,” said Mkhize.

He also urged adults to supervise children and to make sure they did not ingest items they picked up off the sand.

The committee said that over the past few weeks, clean-ups had moved to Clarke Bay, Granny’s Pool (second clean-up), Shaka’s Rock, Thompson’s Beach, Umvoti Beach, Villa Royale Beach and Ballito (main beach). Tugela Mouth and Amatikulu lagoons were also a priority.

Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Zolile Nqayi said the scale of pollution was unprecedented as the nurdles could be found on beaches and in estuaries along the coastline in three coastal provinces of KZN, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

“Considering the number of nurdles picked up and still to be collected, it is also clear that clean-up efforts will continue into next year, and that there are still plenty of nurdles on various beaches,” said Nqayi.

She agreed with Samsa that fewer than four tons of nurdles had been recovered in KZN.

“This is out of a total of 40-odd tons thought to have originally been lost at sea. So there is a long way to go before we can say we are making progress,” said Nqayi.

“The DEA has deployed 585 Working For The Coast beneficiaries to the beached plastic nurdles clean-up effort along the KZN coastline. The programme has employed an additional 196 beneficiaries dedicated to dealing with the nurdles,” she said.