BY SHELLEY SEID
An ecological disaster and an environmental emergency” – that’s what conservation and environmental organisations are calling the millions of plastic pellets‚ known as “nurdles”‚ that have been washing up on KwaZulu-Natal beaches over the past two weeks.
The rapid spread of the pellets is creating further concern – they have made their way as far south as Eastern Cape‚ and to Richards Bay in the north.
Jone Porter‚ director of education at uShaka Seaworld‚ said that the further they spread‚ the worse the impact: “We know they have reached Mbotyi in Eastern Cape. They have reached Richards Bay‚ and we are predicting they will go further north.”
It is believed that a container of nurdles fell off a ship during the KZN storm of October 10‚ and the issue has been referred to the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“It is not merely a provincial problem. It is now of national concern‚” said Porter. “Currently the nurdles are floating on the tide. They look just like food and are being eaten by birds‚ fish and turtles. These animals will face digestive obstructions.”
However‚ she warned: “In the long term‚ the effect will be far more shocking. If these plastic pellets stay in the sea‚ they will break down into even smaller bits‚ and absorb toxins. These will be ingested by even more marine creatures‚ many of which end up on our plates.
The public is being asked to find time on the weekend to go to the nearest beach and collect as many nurdles as possible‚ particularly from the high-water mark. “Each cup of nurdles the public removes form the beach means a few more animals that are not going to die‚” Porter said. “They are small‚ so they need to be strained. We suggest shadecloth or a sieve.”
A collective effort is being encouraged on Sunday between 7am and 10am.