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If you’re heading to the beach this summer, why not take along a black bag and do a bit of a beach clean-up? Marine and birdlife will benefit, and every bit of cleaning counts towards healthier oceans.

Alternatively, get involved in a community beach clean-up.

Beach and marine pollution

Trash that ends up on our beaches is either washed up from the sea or left there by inconsiderate people. Items like broken glass are a danger to beachgoers but by far the most dangerous ocean trash is plastic because it threatens the entire ocean ecosystem.

80% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean comes from land-based sources such as landfills. In South Africa, only 16% of our plastic is recycled which leaves a lot of plastic to blow or wash into the sea.

Plastic does not biodegrade, it only photodegrades. This means it never goes away, only breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic in the ocean results in entanglement, strangulation, obstruction and contamination of the food chain, which threatens humans as well.

Beach clean-up tips

If you’d like to do a clean-up when you next visit the beach or if you’d like to organise a big beach clean-up, here are some handy tips for best results.

Use durable bags

Use strong garbage bags that can handle the weight. Much of the trash you pick up will be wet which makes it heavy.

Dress for all weather

Weather on the coast can change in a heartbeat. Make sure you have a jacket in case it gets cold, a hat for the sun and, of course, don’t forget the sunscreen.

Wear closed shoes

Some of the trash you encounter may be sharp or dirty so protect your feet with closed shoes. You’ll also be on your feet for a few hours.

Wear gloves

The trash on the beach is dirty so gloves are in order. Avoid surgical gloves which might tear and go for thick kitchen gloves instead.

Organise trash pickup (or take it with you)

If you leave bags of rubbish on the side of the road it will just end up back on the beach or in the sea. Make sure someone can take the full bags to the nearest recycling depot or dump.

How to find your local beach clean-up

Organising your own clean-up is great but sometimes it’s easier and more effective to just join an existing beach clean-up. Organisations who do beach clean-ups also record data about the types of rubbish that’s collected for use in ocean pollution statistics and studies.

Here are some of the established beach clean-up organisations along South Africa’s coast:

Two Oceans Aquarium

The Aquarium in Cape Town organises many clean-ups throughout the year, usually in the Cape Town area. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to see when the next one is.

Clean C

Clean C is an NPO that organises beach clean-ups and beach runs in Cape Town and the Atlantic Seaboard. Follow them on Facebook for more info.

KZN Beach Cleanup

If you’re along the coast in KwaZulu-Natal, KZN Beach Cleanup organises regular clean-ups at beaches in and around Durban. Check out their Facebook events for more info.

Coastal Cleanups Port Elizabeth

Along the sunshine coast, Coastal Cleanups organises monthly clean-ups in the Port Elizabeth area. They post about these events on Facebook.

If you live outside of these areas, your local community Facebook page or notice board should have info of local beach clean-ups, especially around International Coastal Cleanup Day which is on every third Saturday in September. If not, you can always organise your own.

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