Collecting to clean seas
Dentures, computer plugs, keyboards, shaving machines and coat hangers are just some of the interesting items of litter that have been found on the 150m stretch of rocky shore at Surfers’ Corner.
On other beaches gas cylinders have been found as well. During the Log Jam Surf Festival in June, members of Waves for Change collected 2500 cigarette butts.
“We started the organisation, the Beach Co-Op, in March 2015 with our first new moon clean-up and are still cleaning the same 150m stretch. New moon is when the tide is at its lowest and the rocks are exposed for us to collect marine debris for our long-term monitoring experiment,” says surfer Aaniyah Omardien, founder and director of the Beach Co-Op.
Charmaine Adams, also a surfer, motivated her to do what she is doing currently and Adams attends some of the clean-ups.
“I approached Professor Peter Ryan, ornithologist at the University of Cape Town, who has been studying and surveying marine pollution along our coastline for more than 20 years. In November 2017 the Beach Co-Op was registered as a non-profit company. We have two directors, Nicola Jenkin and Stefanie Swanepoel, and Lisa Beasley is our operations manager. Peter is our scientific advisor, and we have four board members too,” she says.
They have three goals, namely to keep South Africa’s beaches clean and healthy, to empower coastal communities as guardians of the oceans, and to address issues around single-use plastic from design to consumption with a focus on building circular economies.
“We don’t only clean the beach, we also collect data using the Dirty Dozen methodology. This helps us identify the source of marine litter and better understand how we can manage our waste and what items we should try and avoid buying. We can then make our voices heard regarding unnecessary packaging and help to create a demand for products to be redesigned with a circular economy in mind as opposed to them ending up in a landfill or on our beaches. The Dirty Dozen methodology was developed by Professor Ryan,” Omardien says.
They have done more than 30 clean-ups using this methodology and have several planned for this month, which is International Coastal Clean-up Month.
“Often you may think that the beach looks clean on the surface, but take a closer look and you will find tiny bits of plastic. Our monthly new moon clean-ups at Surfers’ Corner are super fun because the rock pools are full of life – so you get to see the plants and animals that live there and clean the area at the same time. We have recorded anemones ingesting plastic at Surfers’ Corner too, and the next clean-up is on Monday 10 September.
“Most of what we collect is unfortunately not recyclable. Often the material is too dirty and will need to be cleaned if it can be recycled. In the Western Cape this is certainly problematic given the water crisis.
“Sometimes artists approach us and are keen to have us collect certain items for them to use in artworks such as the ‘Plastic is Over’ mosaic piece created by Janine Martel.
“We have also teamed up with others like Waste-ED and Oceano Reddentes to eco-brick marine litter that cannot be recycled. We have a clean-up planned on Sunday 23 September at Miller’s Point that will focus on this,” she says.
The data collected helps the organisation to better understand where the waste is coming from and how to manage it better.
“Residents living on or near beaches can attend or host beach clean-ups using the Dirty Dozen methodology and encourage people to recycle. They can also refuse to buy over-packaged items,” Omardien says.