South Africa commemorates International Coastal Clean-Up Day

15 September 2018


Today South Africa joins many coastal countries in commemorating the International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICCD).  The ICCD rallies together communities with the common goal of collecting and documenting marine litter around global coastlines. South Africa has participated in the ICCD, which is the world’s largest volunteer clean-up event of its kind, which enables scientists to gather valuable data on the extent of marine pollution, since 1986. 

According to the World Bank, South Africa produces 54 425 tonnes of municipal solid waste daily and this is the 15th highest rate in the world. On a per capita basis, the amount produced per household every day equates to two kilograms, putting South Africa at number 38 globally.  Marine litter, including plastic litter, has become a matter of increasing global and national concern as a source of marine pollution. Globally, plastic production has reached new highs, with over 320 million tons now being produced annually.

South Africa has shown commitment to addressing the marine litter and micro-plastics challenge through several forums. In July 2017, the G20 group of countries, of which South Africa is a member, adopted an Action Plan on Marine Litter. In December 2017, at the margins of the 3rd United Nations Environment Assembly South Africa endorsed the UN’s Clean Seas Campaign, which exists as a platform for governments to engage the general public, civil society and the private sector to find solutions to the plastic litter challenge. The Campaign also seeks to dramatically reduce the production and consumption of non-recoverable and single-use plastic.

South Africa is also participating in the Western Indian Ocean Strategic Action Programme (WIO-SAP) on land-based sources of marine pollution, under the Nairobi Convention for the protection, management and development of the Marine and Coastal and Environment of the Western Indian Ocean Region. The WIO-SAP supports the implementation of a Regional Protocol on Land-based Sources and Activities, adopted under the Convention. Under this initiative, South Africa has flagged marine litter as a priority source category of marine pollution to be addressed.

The DEA also has a number of programmes addressing the challenge involving multiple government departments and is leading consultations with industry stakeholders. The Department has implemented its Working for the Coast Programme as an Extended Public Works Project aimed at creating jobs through the clearing of litter from beaches nationally. During the 2016-2018 project cycle, the project employed over 2400 people, of which 1320 comprised of women and 1560 comprises of youth. Whilst this initiative has been in place for several years, it directly contributes to calls under the G20 Action Plan to support litter removal and remediation action. This initiative further promotes the socio-economic benefits of litter collection.

Through Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy, South Africa supports the enhancement of the general environment in which attractions and products are located; and strengthens the linkages between attractions and improves the quality of the tourist experience within destinations. The pristine beaches that attract so many local and international visitors to South African shores are ensured by the Blue Flag Beach programme and currently two hundred young people are employed to keep the beaches clean and provide assistance to tourists. Coastal clean ups contribute directly to achieving this economic growth.

This year the Department will also launch and pilot its Source to Sea Initiative in Kwa-Zulu Natal. “The initiative is an ambitious new strategy to investigate, combat and ultimately eradicate pollution, and plastic pollution in particular, which threatens both freshwater and marine ecosystems,” said Minister Molewa during her 2018/19 Budget Vote speech. Part of the Source-to-Sea pilot programme includes amongst others the deployment of resources that recover litter from the identified priority rivers for a period of 12 months after the launch of the pilot project as well as increasing educational activities and awareness raising campaigns around litter prevention from land based sources targeting communities living close to rivers. 

The Department of Environmental Affairs will take part in various clean-up activities across the country throughout this month and leading to National Marine Week during the second week of October. The department will collaborate with a number of stakeholders such as the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and the City of Ethekwini for clean-up activities in the various coastal provinces.

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Zolile Nqayi
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