The Global
Story

Plastic production is increasing. Going by business-as-usual, the production of plastics is projected to increase annually by roughly 3.8%, with a large portion of that growth in Africa and the Middle East.

Plastic production contributes significantly to climate change. Over 99% of plastic is derived from fossil fuels. Emissions from plastic emerge not only from the production and manufacture of plastic itself, but from every stage in the plastic lifecycle.

Globally, 6% of all plastics ever produced are recycled. A mere 1% is recycled more than once.

Infographic of the annual emissions from the plastic lifecycle.

REFUSE. REUSE. REPAIR. REDUCE. REGENERATE. RECYCLE.

The impact of the global chain of plastic products disproportionately impacts persons, groups, and peoples in vulnerable situations and those located in the vicinity of large-scale industrial complexes.

“Women in particular bear the brunt of plastic-related toxicity risk due to higher aggregate exposure to plastics in the household and even in feminine care products.” – United Nations

Blue watercolour brush stroke illustration.

THE LOCAL
STORY

Most plastic on the South African coast comes from local land-based sources, centred around urban areas. Regular surveys of debris on sandy beaches around the South African coast since 1980’s show that densities of plastic items are consistently greater close to urban centres than at remote beaches. Typically 2-3 orders of magnitude greater.

(Ryan, 2020)

Infographic map of the macroplastic density in South Africa.
Several bags of ocean waste collected in a beach cleanup.

RIVERS AND STORMWATER CANALS TRANSPORT LITTER OF URBAN ORIGIN TO THE COAST

Stormwater outlets are a significant source of litter to beaches.

(Weideman, Perold, Arnold et al., 2020)

UP TO 57% OF PLASTIC DEBRIS IS ASSOCIATED WITH ON-THE-GO FOOD PACKAGING

Banning unnecessary food packaging such as individual sweet wrappers could result in a significant decrease in litter loads.

(Chitaka and von Blottnitz, 2019)

Someone putting a polystyrene cup in a bag during a beach cleanup.
Three kids and a woman pulling a bag of rubbish along the beach.

HISTORY AND CONTEXT MATTER

There are clear socio-economic differences in how much and what type of plastic is generated, and where it ends up.

(Marais, Armitage, and Wise 2004; Armitage 2007)

LITTER TRAPPED IN A ROCKY INTERTIDAL ZONE DIFFERS TO THAT ON A SANDY BEACH

We see differential retention of litter washing ashore due to the physical structure of the shoreline, combined with sand inundation and biotic interactions with litter items.

(Weideman, Perold, Omardien et al., 2020)

A child perched on a rock pointing at something in a rock pool.
Blue watercolour brush stroke illustration.

OUR
PUBLICATIONS

Activities carried out by The Beach Co-op have contributed to several scientific publications thus far:

  • Ingestion of plastic litter by the sandy anemone Bunodactis reynaudi (Weideman et al. 2020) (see blog).
  • Quantifying temporal trends in anthropogenic litter in a rocky intertidal habitat. (Weideman et al. 2020)
  • A synthesis three decades of socio-ecological change in False Bay, South Africa: setting the scene for multidisciplinary research and management (Pfaff et al., 2019)
Close up of a hand underwater pulling put plastic stuck in a rock.

PAPERS

OF INTEREST

Armitage, N. 2007. “The Reduction of Urban Litter in the Stormwater Drains of South Africa.” Urban Water Journal 4 (3): 151–72.
Chitaka, Takunda Y., and Harro von Blottnitz. 2019. “Accumulation and Characteristics of Plastic Debris along Five Beaches in Cape Town.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 138 (January): 451–57.

Hidalgo-Ruz, Valeria, and Martin Thiel. 2015. “The Contribution of Citizen Scientists to the Monitoring of Marine Litter.” Marine Anthropogenic Litter, 433–51.

Marais, Mark, Neil Armitage, and Chris Wise. 2004. “The Measurement and Reduction of Urban Litter Entering Stormwater Drainage Systems : Paper 1 – Quantifying the Problem Using the City of Cape Town as a Case Study.” Water SA 30 (4): 469–82.
Ryan, Peter G. 2020. “The Transport and Fate of Marine Plastics in South Africa and Adjacent Oceans.” South African Journal of Science 116 (5-6): 1–9.

Weideman, Eleanor A., Christie Munro, Vonica Perold, Aaniyah Omardien, and Peter G. Ryan. 2020. “Ingestion of Plastic Litter by the Sandy Anemone Bunodactis Reynaudi.” Environmental Pollution 267 (December): 115543.

Weideman, Eleanor A., Vonica Perold, Gael Arnold, and Peter G. Ryan. 2020. “Quantifying Changes in Litter Loads in Urban Stormwater Run-off from Cape Town, South Africa, over the Last Two Decades.” The Science of the Total Environment 724 (July): 138310.

Weideman, Eleanor A., Vonica Perold, Aaniyah Omardien, Lucy K. Smyth, and Peter G. Ryan. 2020. “Quantifying Temporal Trends in Anthropogenic Litter in a Rocky Intertidal Habitat.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 160 (November): 111543.