Nurdles going nowhere slowly

The help of volunteers all along the coast has been invaluable to the clean-up effort.

It may be old news by now, but the truth is the nurdle crisis is still far from over and the threat to our beaches and marine life is as serious as ever.

The crisis arose after 49 tons of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles, were washed off a ship in Durban harbour during a storm in October last year.

Four containers fell off vessels in the harbour when ships lost their moorings during the storm, of which two containers were carrying nurdles.

Also read: Keep up with the nurdle clean-up

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), Department of Environmental Affairs, Transnet National Ports Authority, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Mediterranean Shipping Company and South African Local Government Association said they had been meeting regularly since the storm to manage and contain clean ups in the harbour and along the coast.

Cleanup crews had already been to North Coast beaches such as Clarke Bay, Granny’s Pool, Shaka’s Rock, Thompson’s Bay, Mvoti beach, Villa Royale beach and Willard Beach.

49 tons of plastic nurdles washed into the sea last year.

Areas which have also been prioritized are Tugela Mouth and Amatikulu lagoon.

SAMSA principal officer, Captain Hopewell Mkhize, said that any nurdles seen in a bathing area would not make the area unsafe for bathing and beach-related activities.

He added nurdle clean-ups had been suspended at all popular bathing areas along the KZN coastline over the festive and holiday period but would begin again.

Clean-up operations continued at the more remote and less accessible sections of coast, including estuaries.

Mkhize urged adults to supervise children and ensure they do not ingest any item picked up from the sand, including nurdles.

As of December, more than 3,5 tons of nurdles had been recovered, meaning there is still more than 45 tons of nurdles out there on beaches and in the sea.

A spokesperson for the EDTEA, Omar Parak told the Courier that the focus of clean-up efforts right now was around the Amatikulu lagoon, Umlalazi mouth and Port Durnford where heavier concentrations have been noted.

The nurdles are so small that it is difficult to separate them from the sand.

“Field assessments are also being undertaken in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape as we seek to determine if any cleanup action is required in these areas,” Parak said.

While the impact of volunteers taking it upon themselves to help clean the beaches cannot be understated, it is important to remember that scientists at CoastWatch KZN and the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) are appealing to people not to simply throw the nurdles in the rubbish, nor to attempt to set up their own recycling efforts.

ORI also wants the public to use specific drop off points in order to keep track of where the nurdles are washing up and how much of the plastic has already been collected.

On the North Coast there are dedicated drop off points at the recycling centre in Ballito in the parking lot of the Ballito Bay Mall and in Umhlali next to the BP garage.

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Allan Troskie

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