For more than two decades, thousands of South African volunteers have been joining the rest of the world on the third Saturday of September to remove, collect and document the litter from our country’s coastlines.

John Kieser, sustainability manager of Plastics SA, and Western Cape ICC coordinator of this annual event, commented on the 2018 event: “During the 2018 event, 19 563 volunteers collected 241 425 items nationally in audited clean-ups that took place along the country’s 2 500-km long coastline.” However, while this is the official figure, many more volunteers and kilograms of litter were removed at unaudited clean-ups that took place throughout South Africa.

Top pollutants on South Africa’s beaches
According to Kieser, the most recent results showed that broken down plastic pieces, foam pieces, cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers (such as chip packets and sweet wrappers), glass pieces, beverage bottles, straws and lolly sticks continue to be the biggest pollutants on our country’s beaches.      

Asthma pumps were the most prolific medical items found in the three Cape provinces, whilst in KwaZulu-Natal (especially in urban clean-ups), it was disposable syringes.

“The main cause of litter on our beaches and in the marine environment is irresponsible human behaviour. The improper disposal of waste and a lack of waste-management infrastructure are the two biggest issues that need to be addressed and corrected,” stressed Kieser.

Kieser added that the increase in the amount of disposable diapers found illegally dumped (especially around informal settlements) was another area of concern. Nationally, approximately 2,5 km of rope or string and 2,8 km of monofilament fishing line were also removed from our beaches.

Interesting statistics from the 2018 International Coastal Clean-up:

  • 4 300 km were covered to distribute material and arrange logistics over a four-week period
  • 50 000 refuse bags were distributed during September 2018
  • 10 800 pairs of gloves provided
  • 80 plastic buckets and 85 garden rakes provided by Addis

“It is encouraging to see how each year’s International Coastal Clean-up continues to grow in the number of volunteers participating, as well as the number of beach clean-ups that are being initiated and driven by communities and volunteers.

“These community efforts have a domino-effect as they highlight the growing need for groups to sort material for recycling purposes, improved waste-management systems and more recycling facilities to be established around the country, as well as ultimately result in less litter ending up in our oceans,” Kieser concludes.

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