Volunteers help clear thousands of plastic nurdles on Plett beach

Plettenberg Bay resident Tarryn Saunders with a handful of nurdles, just a small fraction of the thousands of plastic pellets that were discovered on Robberg 5 Beach.
Plettenberg Bay resident Tarryn Saunders with a handful of nurdles, just a small fraction of the thousands of plastic pellets that were discovered on Robberg 5 Beach.
Image: TARRYN SAUNDERS

Thousands of tiny plastic nurdles have a created a big mess and potential environmental problem along one of Plettenberg Bay’s pristine beaches.

But, armed with little more than a sieve and determination, residents are taking on the daunting task of sifting through sand to clear the plastic that has popped up on Robberg 5 Beach.  

The tiny plastic bobbles, used in the manufacturing of various plastic products, are an ecological threat as they can be mistaken for food by marine animals, affecting their digestive system. .

Residents put a well-received call on social media to volunteer their time and assist in the cleanup.

Plettenberg Bay resident and volunteer Howard Selfe said: “Thousands of nurdles lining our beaches today.

“If you have time to spare, bring down a sieve. It’s a very daunting task otherwise.”

The Herald   reported in 2017 that nurdles had been appearing on beaches in the Southern Cape and authorities were trying to establish the source of the pollution and how far it had spread.

In October that year, it was reported that nearly 50 tonnes of nurdles, imported from Saudi Arabia and set to be offloaded in Durban, , went overboard during a fierce storm.

The pellets were packed in bags in two shipping containers on a Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) vessel, which broke its moorings as the storm raged, ejecting millions of nurdles into the sea.

Municipal spokesperson Andile Namntu said nurdle cleanups were an ongoing task and the municipality and the department of forestry, fisheries and environment were aware of the recent uncovering of nurdles.

Namntu said the most recent spill occurred in October 2020 and cleanup operations had been occurring since through the appointed contractor, Spill Tech, as well as volunteering by residents.

“It is most likely from the October 2020 spill [and] the nurdles would have been covered by sand and periodically uncovered due to storms and sea action.

“Volunteer cleanups are being co-ordinated once more [and] any public member wishing to assist in the collection of nurdles is welcome to contact myself for more information or Keep Plett Clean.”

Namntu said residents could drop off nurdles at  Plettenberg Bay Tourism (Shop 35, Melville’s Corner, Plettenberg Bay).

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