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If you go down to the beach today...

I recently headed down to Merebank Beach in Durban with my family to take part in a cleanup organised by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) for International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Beach cleanup
© Sue Viljoen
Sue's son Tony (7) hard at work cleaning the beach
Coastal legacy

I wanted to take part specifically in memory of my mom who passed away last year. Over the years as a teacher, she took many groups of children to do their bit for Coastal Cleanup Day. This year, co-hosts eThekwini Municipality, Durban Solid Waste and a number of corporates had pulled out all the stops so when we arrived we were greeted with lots of banners and plenty of enthusiasm.

Beach cleanup Durban
© Sue Viljoen
The slogan for the day was “#No Litter in My Area”.
What we found

In 90 minutes, our little team of three adults and two kids carefully recorded everything we picked up on data sheets that were handed out to us. Of the 604 items we collected, half consisted of only four types of single-use plastic:

  • 124 plastic sucker sticks (Note to Self: No more suckers and lollipops for my kids or for handing out at birthday parties going forward!)
  • 92 plastic bottle caps
  • 66 plastic straws
  • 46 earbud sticks

Beach cleanup
© Sue Viljoen
Just some of the plastic items we found
Scratching the surface

The whole event was a real-life illustration of the impact of our consumer lifestyles and we had only just scratched the surface – literally. If you dug down a little deeper there was so much buried rubbish, layer upon layer under the sand.

Beach cleanup
© Sue Viljoen
Lots of plastic was buried in the sand
Let's do it all again next year

Next year, it would be great to come with many more willing volunteers armed with rakes and sieves to make it quicker and easier to pick up the millions of tiny plastic and polystyrene pieces.

Beach cleanup
© Sue Viljoen
The beach was certainly a whole lot cleaner after the 200 or so volunteers were done
Sue Viljoen Photo
Sue Viljoen, Water Stewardship Project Manager

Sue is passionate about creating opportunities for children to be inspired to look after our beautiful planet. In her role with WWF she works with farmers, rivers and inland catchment conservation issues. From source to sea, all things are connected.

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