International Coastal Clean-Up Day

16 September 2017


The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa has urged coastal communities across South Africa to participate in International Coastal Clean-up Day today, the 16th of September 2017.

“Marine litter is recognized as one of the biggest challenges to our oceans, not just in South Africa but around the world, by volunteering to take part in the various clean-up events scheduled to take place today, each one of us can do our part to minimize its detrimental effects on our coastlines and estuaries,” said Minister Molewa.

The country has participated in International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICCD) since 1986. It is one of the world’s largest volunteer clean-up event of its kind, and also enables scientists to gather valuable data on the extent of marine pollution.

According to the Ocean Conservancy a total of 112 countries participated in beach clean-ups worldwide last year, where over 13 million marine litter items were collected. This is more than the combined weight of 700 African Elephants.  In South Africa 7,315 kilograms of litter was collected in 2016.

South Africa has over 3000km of coastline and some of the most bio-diverse marine environments of the world.

“Rapidly increasing development along our coastal areas and estuaries has had the unfortunate consequence of exacerbating littering, which poses a threat to fragile marine ecosystems,” said Minister Molewa.

Overall, six million tonnes of debris enter the world's oceans every year. Although these materials eventually break down, they take a long time to decompose.

Marine animals such as fish, birds, sea turtles, seals and dolphins become entangled in debris that end up in the ocean – including fishing lines, nets, ropes and other discarded fishing equipment.

Plastic debris that degrades and fragments into smaller pieces poses a danger to marine ecosystems as the animals mistake the garbage for food and consume it, with detrimental consequences.

“We should all think twice of the consequences of discarding litter on our beaches and riverbanks, because the effect lasts long after we have thrown away that cold drink can or plastic bag,” added Minister Molewa.

For instance, an aluminium cold drink can take between 200 - 500 years to dissolve at sea and a glass bottle can take up to 1 million years to decompose. One plastic bottle can take 450 years to break up at sea.

The Department of Environmental (DEA) Affairs took part in various clean-up activities across the country – and will collaborate with a number of stakeholders such as the Two Oceans Aquarium and PlasticsSA in Cape Town and Coca Cola and the Buffalo City Municipality in East London.

The aim is to educate communities about the impact of littering on the marine environment. Since South Africa began participating in International Coastal Clean-up Day there has been broad community involvement in the initiative.

It continues to draw support from aquariums, schools and tertiary institutions; businesses; families; Service Clubs; Youth Clubs; Wildlife and Environment Clubs; National and Provincial Government Departments; media; Community Based Organisations; Non-Government Organisations; local municipalities and traditional authorities, the Working for the Coast programme, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and South African National Parks.

“Sustainable development is a cornerstone of our National Development Plan (NDP) and is enshrined in our Constitution; if we are to reap the full recreational, social, and economic benefits of our oceans, it is critical we all do our part to keep them healthy and thriving,” said Minister Molewa.

For media enquiries contact:

Zolile Nqayi on
Cell: 082 898 6483 /