Over the past few weeks, tiny plastic pellets called nurdles have been washing up on beaches from Cape Infanta to Muizenberg. They were first spotted in the Overstrand on Castle Beach (Pearly Beach), at Die Damme (Franskraal) and on Silver Sands Beach (Betty’s Bay).

Last week, Overstrand Municipality reported that large amounts of nurdles had washed up at Bluewater Bay, Castle Beach (Pearly Beach), and at the Pearly Beach Resort towards Soetfontein. The following day, nurdles were also found on Kammabaai Beach in Hermanus.

The municipality sent out an urgent call shortly after that for volunteers to rally and help pick up the nurdles. Generation Schools Hermanus immediately stepped up to the challenge and organised a two-hour clean-up the next day on Kammabaai Beach with some of their middle and high school learners.

After school on Friday afternoon, the learners made their way to the beach, armed with sieves and buckets, and got busy hunting through the sand for the pesky little pellets. 

A teacher at Generation Schools Hermanus, Harriet Saville says their staff and learners have been following the nurdle news since they heard about the first sighting a few weeks ago. “We have spoken about it often during class and our learners were eager to get involved with a clean-up on Kammabaai Beach.”

It didn’t take long for the first nurdles to be found as the learners searched along the waterline, scooping sand into buckets of water and swirling it around to dislodge any nurdles, which can be picked out as they float to the top and placed into glass jars. The learners also found a substantial amount of small plastic pieces, wrappers and straws which had washed up along the beach. The nurdles they collected will be handed over to the Hermanus Fire Department during the week to be disposed of properly.

The municipality has since then sent out another urgent message that nurdles have also been found over the weekend at the Fisherhaven slipway near the Bot River Estuary. These nurdles that have ended up in our ocean and estuaries are collecting toxins and being eaten by marine wildlife that mistake them for fish eggs. Nurdles cannot be digested and end of killing marine life. They also never disappear from the ocean completely; they just get smaller and smaller and then get eaten by small marine organisms, eventually becoming part of the human food chain.

Overstrand Municipality’s Environmental Department has again asked residents to help pick up the nurdles when they are sighted on our beaches or estuaries.

If you have collected nurdles, please make sure that you do not discard them into normal household bins or municipal waste bins. Drop off your container of nurdles at the Fire Department, Tourism Offices, African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (072 598 7117), South African Shark Conservancy (028 312 3029), or Dyer Island Conservation Trust (082 907 5607).

Remember to mention exactly where you found the nurdles so that it can be reported to the municipality. Well done to Generation Schools Hermanus, as well as all the other volunteers who have been helping to collect nurdles along our shores.

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