A foggy and cold morning greeted the more than 200 volunteers who turned up to support the Trash Bash beach cleanup on Hout Bay Beach. The cold weather didn't hold any of us back from doing our part to create awareness of the plight of our coasts, an important message of the international World Oceans Day which took place on 8 June 2019.

A little bit of fog can't stop the Trash Bash spirit! Credit: Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium

Despite the cool weather, the volunteers were fired up to clean up this stretch of coast and help our event partner, The Beach Co-op, collect information about the "Dirty Dozen", the twelve plastic litter items that most commonly pollute South African beaches.

All ages, all welcome. Everyone can make a difference. Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium
Credit: Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium

After a short team briefing, it was time to hit the beach!

Claudine van Zyl, who is a volunteer for the Two Oceans Aquarium and who also volunteers for The Beach Co-op,  briefs Trash Bash attendees on the "Dirty Dozen" method of scientific data collection. Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium
Credit: Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium

Almost immediately, we started finding plastic debris. While the beach certainly looked clean at first glance, there was plenty of plastic pollution nestled away in rock pools and blown up into the sand dunes.

Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium

Hout Bay is a great example of the different sources of litter that enter the ocean - discarded or lost fishing gear, cigarette stompies and bottles discarded by beach visitors, and food wrappers and shopping bags blown into the ocean from inshore.

Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium
Credit: Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium

Floating litter naturally accumulates in places like Hout Bay, but the litter we found here could have come from anywhere. It's truly a global concern.

Two Oceans Aquarium Curator Maryke Musson makes an interesting find! Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium

Even the beach sand was polluted with tiny pieces of microplastic. Normally too small to notice, using a sieve to filter the sand was a great way to find these tiny fragments.

Tiny plastic fragments are hiding everywhere, and Trash Bash was the perfect opportunity to learn how to find them. Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium

By the end of the morning, the Trash Bash team had collected over 224kg of beach litter, filling about 20 refuse bags - no small feat for a two-hour cleanup! That's even more than last year's International Coastal Cleanup Day event, which was attended by over 500 people!

Credit: Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium

Perhaps more importantly, we had the opportunity to create a spirit of togetherness with our volunteers, their families and members of the public who crossed our path.

Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium

Of course, Trash Bash is far from the only movement that supports cleanups on Hout Bay beach, and we are genuinely impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the members of the local community to keep this beach free of pollution. However, the problem of ocean pollution is a global crisis, and it's only if we can spread this type of action to all corners of the globe that beaches like Hout Bay, and the offshore ecosystems they support, will be free of trash.

It's a big problem, but together we can make a difference!

Thank you for your support - what a truly incredible group of volunteers you were. Credit: Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium

Join the Trash Bash fun!

The Two Oceans Aquarium takes the issue of ocean plastic pollution seriously, and we aim to use beach cleanups not just as a way to physically remove some of this pollution, but as a tool to create awareness and excitement about the ocean and the issues it faces. We've teamed up with The Beach Co-op to make sure that all the waste collected at these events also supports scientific research into where it comes from, and how best we can tackle it.

Above all else, each Trash Bash is short, fun and high-impact - we want the whole family to enjoy doing environmental good together.

The next Trash Bash will be taking place on 27 July 2019 - keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details.

Take a look at the fun we had at other Trash Bash events:

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