Cleaner Surfers Corner

2017-07-25 06:00
The Beach Co-operative holds a beach cleanup of the intertidal rocky shores at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg every month.PHOTO: satya photography

The Beach Co-operative holds a beach cleanup of the intertidal rocky shores at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg every month.PHOTO: satya photography

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Locals are rolling up their sleeves to reduce their impact on the ocean.

The Beach Co-operative is holding a beach cleanup of the intertidal rocky shores at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg today.

The cleanup comes during the last week of Plastic Free July, a campaign to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic.

For the last two years, the Beach Co-operative has been holding cleanups around new moon and spring low tide mornings.

“The Beach Co-operative is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastic not just from where it ends up, but from where it comes from as well,” says founder Aaniyah ­Omardien.

It began when she approached Peter Ryan from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at UCT, who has monitored long-term changes in the amount and composition of marine litter around South Africa since the mid-1980s by sampling litter on 50 beaches every five years.

“South Africa is a major culprit when it comes to waste plastic entering the sea. A 2015 study found that South Africa is the 11th worst country worldwide when it comes to plastic pollution in the ocean, due to the combination of a high per-capita use of plastic, and a low proportion of refuse that ends up being recycled or disposed of appropriately,” she says.

The first cleanup in March 2015 collected 758 litter items that filled 12 large refuse bags from 130m of rocky shore, Omardien says.

Since then, monthly cleanups have yielded an average of 360 items weighing about 5kg after being washed and dried.

“The amount and type of litter varies greatly from month to month. Litter loads spike after the first winter rains flush the Cape Flats wetlands, and when wave action strips away much of the sand in the area, exposing buried litter,” she explains.

“Because most plastics float, we expected plastic items to be less common in the intertidal zone than on the adjacent sandy beach, where they comprise 97% of litter items. However, almost 80% of all intertidal debris is made of plastic. Some items are snagged in seaweeds or among mussels, a few are used as sunshades by sea urchins, and others are eaten by sea anemones. “Perhaps the most surprising finding is how plastic bags become filled with sand, even through the smallest of holes, forming solid, brick-like structures that are soon colonised by a wide range of marine organisms.”

The Beach Co-operative received seed funding from the WWF Nedbank Green Trust to engage with consumers and restaurant owners to understand how they could work together to reduce the single-use plastic items found on beaches. The team has grown from its beginnings as a volunteer beach cleanup led by Omardien and Charmaine Adams, to having additional professional researchers on board.

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