The World’s Largest Coastal Clean-Up

Hearts & Heroes

Thousands of South Africans took the time, made the effort and flocked to their local beaches to pick up and remove litter. Plastics SA co-ordinates the ‘Cleanups’ that take place in the three Cape provinces, on the beaches as well as at various rivers inland. KZN Marine Waste Network members take responsibility for co-ordinating Cleanups at major beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. To date, nearly 12 million people have been part of the world’s biggest volunteer effort to protect the ocean, and South Africa is a major part of this success story!

The Cleanup differs from other clean-ups as it is, in major part, an audited clean-up where all material collected is recorded to give an overall picture of the international state of our coastlines and seas. The data reveals details of items collected, but the top ten of these don't change much year-on-year. Microplastic pieces are by far the most collected item, with bottle tops in second position.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the need for a clean and safe environment, proper waste management and non-littering, the number of caring people is still outweighed by an uncaring society. “We need to muster all the energy we can to ensure a cleaner environment, as the material that survives a period of being exposed to environmental energy will always be plastics. Nature does not recognise plastics and glass, whereas paper (and, to some degree, metal) degrades over time when it is exposed,” explains Sustainability Manager of Plastics SA, John Kieser.

“To date, nearly 12 million people have been part of the world’s biggest volunteer effort to protect the ocean, and South Africa is a major part of this success story!”

Approximately 75% of ocean litter is derived from land-based waste. Without effective waste collection, an avalanche of debris will enter the ocean. To prevent this, Plastics SA encourages South Africans of all ages, races and backgrounds to participate in their Cleanup & Recycle activities.

It’s wonderful to see that, compared to previous years, there’s definitely a marked increase in the number of clean-ups being organised inland at rivers, streams and other water sources as the public is realising that trash travels. All litter eventually finds its way to our country’s oceans and onto the beaches. At its core, ocean trash is a people problem – perpetuated by the often unwitting practices that industry and people have adopted over time. It affects human health and safety, endangers marine wildlife and costs states and nations countless millions in wasted resources and lost revenue.

Thanks to volunteers around the world, International Coastal Cleanup has become a beacon of hope, leading and inspiring action in support of our oceans. Over the years, this movement has created a family that spans across country borders. A network that works together for something so much bigger than us.

With the celebration of the 21st year of SA being involved in the International Coastal Cleanup Day, the hope is that South Africans will finally begin to realise the impact our actions have on the environment. The amazing collaborative effort marks one year to the big World Cleanup Day on 15 September 2018.

For more information on 2018's World Cleanup Day or to participate in the Coastal Cleanups, visit