WATCH: Drone footage shows plastic pollution on KZN beaches
Drone footage has laid bare the scale of the plastic pollution on KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) beaches, following the deadly floods that hit the province this week.
The natural disaster has killed at least 70 people and left many homeless.
Swathes of the coastline around the Umgeni River mouth are covered in plastic debris that got washed downstream with the flood waters.
"It's absolute chaos out there," Lindsay Hopkins, project director at Breathe Ocean Conservation, told News24 on Thursday.
Breathe is one of several organisations that are mobilising people to assist in cleanups this weekend.
The first cleanup kicks off at 08:00 at Blue Lagoon on Saturday, with the education centre at the Beachwood Mangrove Nature Reserve as the meeting point.
The second, at Durban Harbour, is scheduled to take place from 09:00 until midday, with volunteers meeting outside the Royal Natal Yacht Club.
According to Hanno Langenhoven, strategic manager for recycling at the Wild Trust, the current situation is just the tip of the iceberg.
"What we're currently facing on the beaches is a result of a much, much bigger waste management and pollution problem upriver, where smaller and poorer communities are not serviced and do not have access to service delivery, hence waste – especially plastic – is literally just dumped everywhere. And during the course of the year it builds up into river systems and when we do have a big weather event the river takes it down to the beach," he said.
"The sad thing is we get all upset when our beaches are all clogged up with plastic, but during the course of the year when the beaches are clean we don't give the pollution two thoughts where it really is a year-round problem upriver from where we see it on the beaches."
Hopkins said people are encouraged to bring gloves, trainers, sunblock and hats to the cleanups on Saturday.
She said she hoped it would help make more people aware of the impacts of the everyday household waste they generate.
"We are looking for the general public to come and get involved and see what is lying on the sand is exactly what they need to avoid buying," she said.