As the morning of Human Rights Day broke, volunteers from all walks of life gathered at Sunset Beach for the first of four #TrashBash beach clean-ups. Not only was our goal to cleanse this stretch of beach of plastic litter, but also to collect scientific data about the "Dirty Dozen" - the plastic pollutants most commonly fouling the world's coast.

Trash Bash was supported by dozens of families and organisations that showed up on the day, but we must give special thanks to The Beach Co-op who provided amazing assistance and support in the organisation of this event, and the subsequent data collection. Special thanks also go to Averda for their generous donation to Trash Bash, making the procurement the much neede trash buckets and scales possible.

So what is the Dirty Dozen?

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 litter items that are most commonly found on our beaches. These are: Carriers bags, chip packets, cigarette lighters, cooldrink bottles, cooldrink lids, earbuds, fishing line, lightsticks, plastic lollipop sticks, straws, sweet wrappers and water bottles. We found 8 429 items from this list on just a 1km strip of beach!

Armed with a checklist of the Dirty Dozen, teams set off to collect as much litter as possible (wow, perhaps next time we'll need to provide A3 checklists!) Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Participants worked together in 28 groups, recording everything they collected. At the end of the cleanup, the data was collated and is contributing to research into the tracking of different sources of marine litter, especially the 12 main focus items. This is why we will be revisiting the same spot throughout the year, to see how the distribution of plastic waste changes.

What did we find?

12 907 pieces of litter were picked up in under two hours at Trash Bash - that works out to more than 185 pieces of litter per square metre of beach - unbelievable! 

8 429 of these items were members of the "Dirty Dozen", but the rest was "unusual" pieces of waste, and fragments that were too broken up to be identified. 87% of all the trash collected was plastic!

These harmless looking plastic earbud sticks were the worst pollutant found by far - 2 225 found! Photo by Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Overall, almost 79kg of plastic was collected! Great job team!

Also had some fun!

Bruce the Shark also came to Trash Bash, but unfortunately, sharks do not have fingers, so cannot lift litter. They can lift spirits though! 

Photo by Amina Hoosain/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Ingrid Sinclair/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Ingrid Sinclair/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Working together to rid the beach of trash!

We were truly amazed at the enthusiasm everybody brought with on the day! We made such a big difference - together we can make the next Trash Bash even more successful!

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

And microplastic too!

Those of you familiar with the recent nurdle spill in KwaZulu-Natal, would be surprised by what we found on Sunset Beach! Microplastics, like nurdles, degraded plastic bags, and other items of plastic pollution that have been broken up by the ocean litter all the world's coasts, but are so small that they usually escape notice.

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Joe Carelse/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Photo by Ingrid Sinclair/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Overall, 253 grams of microplastic were collected - composed mostly of over 600 nurdles, the plastic pellets that are the raw material used to make all sorts of plastic products.

Working with amazing people

We are incredibly grateful to the support received from the public and community organisations that showed up to help. Thank you to The Beach Co-op, Surfers Pledge, Averda, Rotary, Skunk Glass, Scouts SA, Girl Guides SA, the International Peace Youth Group and By Grace.

Great having the enthusiastic team from Averda on board at Trash Bash! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Thanks for coming through to help out guys - the team from the International Peace Youth Group were awesome! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Thanks to all the members of the Girl Guides that came to assist! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
As always, great seeing WaddleOn Socks supporting this coastal cause! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Rocking the purple! Thanks to the Scouts SA team that came through to assist at Trash Bash! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.
Much love for the waste warriours from By Grace! Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Joining the Trash Bash family

Thank you to everyone who took part, we certainly did not expect such a huge crowd at the first Trash Bash - we can't wait to see you all again at the next one!

Photo by Devon Bowen/Two Oceans Aquarium.

Trash Bash is a new campaign by the Two Oceans Aquarium and will see us hosting quarterly beach cleanups, hoping to grow attendance of these cleanups, and to entrench them as part of Cape Town’s culture. The following dates have been set for Trash Bash 2018:

  • 9 June – time to be confirmed
  • 15 September – time to be confirmed
  • 8 December – time to be confirmed

All three of these cleanups will take place at Sunset Beach, Blouberg for the purposes of regular collection of research data, and a new beach will be chosen in 2019 (we are open to your suggestions).

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