PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - An army of spill response workers descended on Plettenberg Bay and Knysna beaches over the past week in an attempt to deal with the millions of nurdles that have washed up along the Garden Route coast recently.
The SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said while clean-up operations by appointed waste management company Spill Tech are in full force, the authority is investigating how the multitude nurdles – tiny plastic pellets used in the manufacturing of plastic products – came to threaten the coastline.
“Authorities are working hard to address the nurdles recently washing up along certain regions of the south Western Cape coastline from Fish Hoek in False Bay to Goukamma Marine Protected Area and Plettenberg Bay,” Samsa said in a statement.
The nurdles are also reportedly washing up along the Eastern Cape coastline, but the exact locations are still to be confirmed.
“The extent of the clean-up operation is significant and it is anticipated that the removal of nurdles from the affected coastline will continue for some time to come. The authorities and NGOs look forward to working with Spill Tech as the lead agent for the duration of the clean-up," said Samsa.
Scientists have expressed growing concern over these pellets as it not only concentrates and attracts background pollutants, but also never breaks down completely.
The toxic pellets are furthermore mistaken for food by marine animals but as they cannot be digested, they cause digestive blockages, starvation and death.
Nurdles started appearing on South African beaches after a massive nurdle spill in the Durban Harbour in October 2017, when a shipping container was knocked overboard in a collision with another vessel during a storm and about 49 tons landed in the ocean, but according to Samsa, the latest appearance is not related to this incident and an investigation into its source is ongoing. The waste company, which will be storing the collected nurdles, is working with various role players to identify collection points and arrange the pick-up of nurdles.
“The authorities, including the departments of Transport and of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, local authorities, NGOs and volunteer groups have all been working consistently to clean up nurdles washing up on beaches,” Samsa said.
Residents and visitors are also urged to assist in these clean-up efforts. Knysna Environmental Services manager Pam Booth explained that a relatively easy way to pick up nurdles is with a small net and a bucket of water. Scoop up sand with the net, shake out the sand and put the rest of the debris in water. Because the pellets are buoyant, they will float on the service and will be easy to collect.
Booth added that the nurdles would ultimately be stored at a central facility in Cape Town and that government would then decide how to either re-use or recycle the pellets.
- In Plettenberg Bay, nurdles can be dropped off at the Nature’s Valley Trust offices in the Longships area as well as at the Plett Tourism offices in Main Street.
- In Knysna, nurdles can be dropped off at the municipality’s Environmental Services offices at 1 Spring Street, and in Sedgefield at the PiliPili Beachfront Restaurant.
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