The Black River mouth recently began overflowing with plastic waste and this prompted a group of civic-minded people to remove volumes of it over the weekend.
The river mouth was filled by mainly single-use plastics, a situation worsened by the recent heavy rain. It was recorded by the environmental organisations -#SeaTheBiggerPicture, Oceano Reddentes, Sentinel Ocean Alliance and parley.tv – that at the clean-up 324.31kg of waste was removed, of which 74.5% was recycled.
There was 88kg of pet (water and cooldrink bottles), 60.5kg of polystyrene and 42.5kg of shoes.
SeaTheBiggerPicture founder Chris Krauss said: “The recent rains that occurred washed all the litter down the drains and into the rivers.
“Three litter booms have been fitted by the litter boom project close to the golf course, but the booms at Bokmakierie canal cannot cope with the high volumes of water and the booms aren’t stopping enough of the plastic flowing into the river. Of course, litter booms are one tiny part of a very big issue.”
Krauss said litter booms were not the ultimate solution to this plastic waste scourge. The best solution is to find alternatives to single-use plastic and stop the flow of single-use plastics into the consumer market. About 95% of the litter we observed flowing out of the river mouth was polystyrene.
He said: “Polystyrene is from food packaging and has to be banned. Once it breaks down into smaller sizes it’s almost impossible to clean up.
“It’s very disheartening to arrive at a river to see the volumes of plastic just freely flowing out to sea. The ocean does us a favour by washing it back on to the beach, but of course this is just a fraction of what goes out to sea.’’
All the litter is seen to come upstream from the suburban areas along the Black River, including the Liesbeek, Elsieskraal River and the Bokmakierie drainage canal.
Oceano Reddentes founder and youth ocean activist Jade Bothma said: “The river mouth was worse than last year, even with the litter boom nets on the river Covid-19 has also sadly caused more demand for single-use plastic packaging such as gloves and masks. We do expect it to get worse now that people are allowed out more.”
Bothma said they were happy to be able to recycle 74.5% of waste and only 82.5kg of the total haul of 324kg went to a landfill.
Help Up founder Georgia McTaggart said: “The trash was bad because of the heavy rains over the 10 days prior to the clean-up. The booms have been working well but due to the level of the rivers rising to 4m in places the surface plastic coming down from the informal settlements washes into the sea.”
She said the only way to stem the tide of pollution in the rivers and oceans was for the city to open depots in poor areas. People can be paid to bring their waste to the depot.