Coast KZN

31 Oct 2017

Nurdles clean-up operations underway

Allan Troskie (North Coast Courier) Picture: Billions of plastic nurdles have littered the KZN coastline. (Photo Credit: Allan Troskie).

“Drizit Environmental has reported that the clean-up response in the wake of the incident is progressing well.

Extensive clean-up operations of plastic nurdles along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline are underway following the spillage of polyethylene cargo in the Port of Durban earlier this month.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) welcomes the issuing of a directive by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), to take full responsibility for the clean-up operation.

This development follows the loss of cargo into the ocean within the Durban Harbour from the vessel MSC SUSANNA, subsequently leading to the spillage after a devastating thunderstorm on October 10.

Two 40 foot containers fell into the port waters during the storm.

Each container contained 990 bags of low and high-density polyethylene packed in 25kg bags.

The total tonnage lost is estimated to be 49 tons.
This is an emergency incident and a strong call for coastal municipalities to deploy beach cleansing teams has also been issued.

The Department has since liaised with the cargo owner, SABIC which then appointed the commercial service provider, Drizit Environmental, to co-ordinate the recovery of the beached plastic nurdles.

Drizit Environmental has reported that the clean-up response in the wake of the incident is progressing well.

At present, the areas of immediate focus are Durban’s beaches and the Northern coastline. The operation includes the containment and recovery of floating nurdles in the Port of Durban.

The Working for the Coast teams have been deployed along the coastline and an option of getting additional numbers is being explored.


All about nurdles

Nurdles, or plastic pellets, are mostly made from synthetic substances, some even derived from petrochemical products that give them high mouldability for manufacture of familiar plastic products.

In their raw stage (pre-moulded and packaged) they are not toxic to touch.

However, once released into the marine environment they attract harmful substances that end up in the ocean.

The plastic nurdles can have negative impacts on marine protected species in the region, such as seabirds and turtles.

This can occur by being ingested and filling the stomach with matter with no food value, and so the animals become malnourished and in time can starve.


Plastics can also be carriers of pathogens. Entanglement would not seem to be likely in this instance, but nurdles could block fishes filtering parts.

“The Department is well aware that the incident resulted in widespread local volunteer-based clean-up initiatives across the Kwazulu-Natal province,” said the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa.

“It is the view of the Department that such initiatives are a demonstration of the high levels of environmental concern and awareness expressed by the coastal communities of Kwazulu-Natal.”

“The Department therefore would like to commend all persons involved in the response to the incident to date. Members of the public are encouraged to join in and to contribute toward the protection of the coast.”

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