Over the past two weeks, the City’s environmental management department has detected a sudden increase in nurdles at beaches around the city. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)(ANATOPIX)
Over the past two weeks, the City’s environmental management department has detected a sudden increase in nurdles at beaches around the city. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)(ANATOPIX)

WATCH: Transparency called for after plastic nurdle spill contaminated Cape coastline

By Sukaina Ishmail Time of article published Nov 3, 2020

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Cape Town - Concerned environmental organisations are urging the government to be more transparent with the public when it comes to hazardous spills in the ocean after the recent plastic nurdle spill which contaminated parts of the coastline.

It was confirmed by Plastics SA that the spill, which occurred last week, was from a vessel that lost cargo off the coast of Plettenberg Bay. No further information on the spill has been released.

Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets used to manufacture plastic items. They weigh 20 grams each and are able to float.

Help Up non-profit organisation founder Georgia McTaggart said: “Plastic is a by-product of the fossil fuel industry. The plastic pellets called nurdles are a scourge to the natural environment and are difficult to see with the naked eye against the beach sand. The cost to the natural environment is ongoing and we will still be collecting nurdles from this spill for years to come.

“We call on the local and national government, Plastics Federation and International Ports Authorities to provide clear and up-to-date information on spills of this type. This would assist organisations and community groups to correctly inform the public and create calls-to-action through social media platforms,” she said.

Concerned environmental organisations are urging the government to be more transparent with the public when it comes to hazardous spills in the ocean. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Concerned environmental organisations are urging the government to be more transparent with the public when it comes to hazardous spills in the ocean. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

McTaggart said transparency would help create an efficient and appropriate crisis-mitigation response when presented with environmental emergencies such as nurdle contaminations in the ocean.

Pristine Earth Collective director George van der Schyff said: “This sort of spill is a nightmare for the plastics industry and the government, until such time as the government decides to divest from relying so heavily on the fossil fuel and plastics manufacturing industry.”

He said it was time the government began engaging and supporting organisations with the resources needed to respond to an environmental crisis since these were often left for the public to deal with.

“The public were not the first to notice the spill. However, the plastics industry and the government were working on cleaning this spill for weeks before environmental organisations and the public were made aware of it. Environmental education is therefore paramount.”

He said due to the country's hierarchy of poverty needs, the environment easily fell lower down the chain, which was why a multi-pronged approach was needed, including awareness, packaging design and placing a monetary value on all plastic waste.

“This is not a unique incident but nurdles from this spill will not break down in our lifetime. They will grow more toxic and continue to contaminate the ocean’s food chain which will severely impact our ocean biodiversity for decades to come,” he said.

Cape Argus

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