For the past 30 years, the third Saturday in September is dedicated to cleaning the marine environment and is known as International Coastal Cleanup Day. The Two Oceans Aquarium has been a supporter of the day for many years, and this year organised a Trash Bash at Monwabisi Beach to celebrate.
On the day, approximately 100 participants worked together to make a difference to the environment and to prevent debris and litter from entering the ocean by removing it from the beach. Initially, the beach looked quite clean, but as is often the case, this proved not to be true. Items collected ranged from fishing gear, plastic bottles, chip packets and all manner of plastic debris to clothing and a lot of glass. Data was collected on the Marine Debris Tracker app and will be added to the international database that tracks the trash collected on the day - worldwide!
The total weight of the litter collected tallied up to 837kg! Now that is teamwork!
The day wasn't just about cleaning the beach. It was also about learning something new and getting a glimpse into the wonderful world that lies beneath the ocean surface.
The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation brought their Oceans in Motion Outreach Van along and shared their extensive knowledge about marine animals and plants with the cleanup participants and especially with the young and enquiring minds.
On the day, Captain Fanplastic also joined the crew. Through storytelling and a book reading, the little ones were entertained and at the same time learnt about the ocean and why it is important to look after the environment.
The 2021 International Coastal Cleanup Day was a huge success with students (even from as far as Stellenbosch), Scouts, moms, dads, uncles and aunts, all joining in to spend a couple of hours on the beach to clean up and connect with nature.
Why do we need to clean the beach?
Estimates are that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish. Our world ocean is in dire peril, facing a human-made crisis and desperately needs us to turn the tide on plastic and other pollution within the marine environment. Studies have shown that millions of seabirds have ingested plastic and a staggering number of sea animals die each year from either ingesting plastic, or becoming entangled in plastic debris.
Unlike organic materials, plastic does not break down into naturals components. Through exposure to the elements (sun, wind and water), it breaks up into smaller pieces called microplastic. Even when a beach seems completely devoid of litter, taking a closer look, one is very likely to find these tiny bits of plastic everywhere mixed in with the sand. These microplastics end up in the marine environment where they are mistaken for food and consumed by animals as small as microscopic plankton. Humans, being at the top of the food chain, then consume the animals that have eaten plastic, which brings the plastic back onto our plates and into our bodies.
Beach cleanups are vital as they prevent plastic and other trash from being deposited into the ocean. We can all do something to look after the environment, and cleaning a beach is an easy and fun way of making a contribution to, and a connection with, nature. These cleanups also contribute to scientific studies through the data collected.
Cleanups, like Trash Bash and the International Coastal Cleanup Day, are not only good for the environment, they are also important for the people taking part, and the community as a whole. Spending time outside and with like-minded people, creates a sense of responsibility for the environment and brings people together to care for areas within their communities.