In October, our SST researchers completed the third survey of the WIOMSA marine litter monitoring project. The beach surveys took place on the Port Elizabeth beaches Cape Recife and Bluewater Bay.
For ten days, the researchers collected litter along their study sites. They then cleaned, counted, weighed and grouped the litter into specific categories. The results determined how much litter accumulated daily on the beaches.
Port Elizabeth experienced unusual high spring tides during October. Not only did this make conditions difficult and dangerous for our researchers, who continued their surveys, but it also brought a surplus of litter washing up on the beaches.
“Sampling during the spring tide was an interesting experience. The tide was unusually high and extended all the way to the back of the beaches. There was substantially more litter dumped on the beach during the spring tide compared to an average day. Strong spring tides likely unearth old, buried litter. This illustrates why beach surveys should not be conducted over spring tides, as it may inflate estimates of daily accumulation, ” said SST researcher Toshka Barnardo.
The following are the survey results:
Total number of items found over 10 days: 2535
Total weight of litter found over 10 days: 71.4 kg
% of beach litter made up of plastic: 65%
% of beach litter coming from South Africa vs. % of foreign litter: 93% Local vs 7% Foreign
Top 10 items found:
- Polystyrene/Styrofoam/Cushioning & Packaging Foam/ Foam cups & container pieces (767 pieces)
- Fishing gear (fishing line, ropes, metals etc.) (343 pieces) (line with a hook)
- Glass pieces (252 pieces)
- Hard plastic fragments (203 pieces)
- Film Plastic Fragments (193 pieces) (cling wrap)
- Food wrappers/packaging (133 pieces)
- Construction Material (90 pieces) (Roof tiles)
- Caps/ Lids/ Lid Rings (74 pieces)
- Metal fragments (66 pieces)
- Clothing (Fabric fragments, Shoes, Sandals, Cotton string etc.) (29 pieces)
Bluewater Bay beach
Total number of items found over 10 days: 4327
Total weight of litter found over 10 days: 8.1 kg
% of beach litter made up of plastic: 83%
% of litter coming from South Africa vs. % of foreign litter: 95% Local vs 5% Foreign
Top 10 items found:
- Polystyrene/Styrofoam/Cushioning & Packaging Foam/ Foam cups & container pieces (1461 pieces)
- Hard Plastic Fragments (440 pieces)
- Plastic caps/ lids/ lid rings (362 pieces)
- Food wrappers/ Packaging (349 pieces)
- Plastic Film Fragments (297 pieces)
- Earbuds (273 pieces)
- Cigarettes (265 pieces)
- Fishing gear (fishing line, ropes, metals etc.) (204 pieces)
- Lollipop sticks (84 pieces)
- Glass Fragments (75 pieces)
Our researchers also found old litter items buried beneath the sand. This included a fifteen-year old (estimated) chocolate wrapper and a fifity-year old (estimated) aluminium toothpaste tube.
It is widely known that plastic and other litter items may take decades or even centuries to degrade in a natural environment. These items provide evidence of that.
The next survey will begin in February 2020.