Bay beaches flooded with litter

ABOVE: One of the volunteers, Marlena Penn, during a clean-up at Cape Recife. RIGHT: The research sign at the first study in Cape Recife.               Photos:SUPPLIED
ABOVE: One of the volunteers, Marlena Penn, during a clean-up at Cape Recife. RIGHT: The research sign at the first study in Cape Recife. Photos:SUPPLIED

AN international study to determine the amount of litter on Port Elizabeth beaches and river banks is currently underway.

Seven African countries are working together to determine the litter flowing down rivers on beaches in their regions. Port Elizabeth is the city in South Africa leading the study.

The South African representatives, The Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), found in just over 10 days, 5 041 litter items washed up onto just two Port Elizabeth beaches and a river bank.

According to SST researcher, Toshka Barnardo, the seven countries (Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania) are part of a research project headed by The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).

“This data by the collaboration of the seven countries will help to determine current litter baselines, inform litter reduction measures, and monitor the impact and effectiveness of such measures,” Barnardo said.

The first study to kick-start the project commenced on World Oceans Day in June.

The day before the studies were conducted, the countries first cleared all the litter to start with a clean site. This was done to prevent litter from the previous months affecting the results.

Representing South Africa, SST conducted its studies in Cape Recife, Bluewater Bay and the Swartkops River Estuary. Cape Recife was found to have the most litter with 2 792 litter items, followed by Bluewater Bay with 1 529 litter items, and 720 litter items accumulated in Swartkops. The average litter items found per day was 279 in Cape Recife, 153 in Bluewater Bay and 72 in the Swartkops. The top three items found were food wrappers, plastic film fragments and foam fragments.

SST executive director, Stacey Webb, said that they are very proud to be a part of this collaboration that seeks to understand marine waste and its challenges.

Webb added, “As a local living in Nelson Mandela Bay, I was absolutely astounded by the magnitude of litter washing up on a daily basis.

“It highlights the magnitude of the waste management issues we are dealing with on land. Nelson Mandela Bay is a hope spot and is very rich in biodiversity, so we need to work together to combat waste pollution on land and reduce the impact we have on the sea.”

For 10 days, the countries then collected litter along their study sites. They cleaned, counted, weighed and grouped the litter into specific categories. The results determined how much litter accumulates daily on the beaches and river banks. The studies are conducted every three months, and the next one will be in September.

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