Header image credit: Verity Fitzgerald
The Beach Co-op (TBC) is a not-for-profit company that evolved from the work of a group of volunteers that started collecting marine debris at their local surf break, the rocky shore at Surfers Corner, in Muizenberg, Cape Town, in 2015.
TBC works collaboratively and creatively within ocean communities and with government and business to urgently protect, restore and regenerate the integrity of ocean ecosystems. We effectively connect people, institutions and organisations through evidence-based education and experiential learning to keep South Africa’s beaches clean and healthy and to protect and enhance ocean health.
We use an innovative monitoring tool – the Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ – that tracks the top 12 most commonly found plastic litter items. This tool was developed by Professor Peter Ryan, who has been monitoring beach litter in South Africa since the 1980s, to understand its impact on seabirds that ingest it. At that time little was known about how much and what type of plastic was entering South Africa’s oceans. The Dirty Dozen items were chosen as indicators of the most significant sources of beach litter from ocean vessels, land-based sources and beach users. While we pick up all litter at our cleanups, we only record the 12 Dirty Dozen plastic items.
Our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ tool not only helps to generate awareness of the problem with those who use it at our cleanups, it also contributes to the generation of useful data on plastic pollution trends. This helps ascertain whether the measures taken to mitigate plastic pollution in our oceans are effective. This type of long-term data collection provides us with the necessary site-specific information to support targeted, evidence-based communication campaigns. In addition, the aggregated data can be fed into scientific channels to support academic work and provide for an evidence-based campaign against single-use plastics in South Africa.
Image credit: Verity Fitzgerald
Covid-19 and the resultant lockdowns have made us think of innovative ways to continue cleaning beaches and supporting citizen science efforts to contribute to eliminating plastic waste. Even during lockdown, significant volumes of plastic waste were found along our coastlines – and most of it originating from land-based litter.
We have taken it to a new level, as we know that you still want to make a difference, not only in keeping our beaches clean but in providing the proof needed to bring about sustainable production and consumption. And so, we have taken our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ Toolkit digital.
Our Dirty Dozen Cleanup™ Toolkit is designed to be used by individuals, groups of families and friends and other beach cleanup organisations around the world. The goal? To collect rigorous data that supports the call for change to the way we buy, use and discard plastics.
Image credits: Verity Fitzgerald
International Coastal Cleanup Day began 34 years ago, and every year on the third Saturday of September, communities have gathered with the common goal of collecting and documenting the trash littering their coastline.
This is the second year that The Beach Co-op will be assisting Plastics SA with the coordination of all the registered cleanups from the Cape Metropole and Overberg areas.
There are 35 registered cleanups, of which 25 are open for members of the public to request attendance from the organisations hosting. Please check our blog for all of the cleanups taking place on Saturday.
This year we are encouraging you to #CleanOn, by either joining a small cleanup (50 pax) or doing your own cleanup and logging your data by using The Beach Co-op’s list on the Marine Debris Tracker App. Using the app allows cleanup volunteers to contribute to our citizen science methodology while adhering to COVID-19 regulations.
What can you do to help?
Follow the five Rs, when it comes to plastic: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle.
You can also create awareness about the plastic pollution issue, by talking about it with your friends and family.
Help us raise money for Annie, the loggerhead turtle, so that we can release her back into the ocean by the end of this year. You can read her full story here.
This ICC, you can organise your own cleanup with your family or friends. Identify an area close to your home and pick up any pollution you can see. Even better, download the Dirty Dozen Cleanup app and become a citizen scientist.
Together we can make a difference.
Claudine van Zyl completed her Work Imtegrated Learning (WIL) internship with us last year. Her research project was: ‘The characterisation of plastics in stranded post-hatchling loggerhead turtles along the South African coastline from 2015 to 2020’.
Bob, a green turtle in our care, has been with us since November 2014. While he is not ready for release yet, we are preparing him so that he has the best chance of survival back in the big blue. Alex Panagiotou, one of our turtle team specialists, is working with Bob through enrichment programmes and research.
Grant Blakeway completed the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge by solo rowing 4 800 km across the Atlantic. He did this to highlight the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean.