Amatikulu nature reserve the latest casualty of recent nurdle spillage

12 November 2017 - 14:13 By Shelley Seid
A general view of the Amatikulu Nature Reserve.
A general view of the Amatikulu Nature Reserve.
Image: Facebook/Nico Fourie

The Amatikulu nature reserve is the most recent casualty of the nurdle spillage that took place in the Durban harbour in early October.

Last week thousands of the tiny plastic pellets were spotted in the Amatikulu estuary‚ situated along the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal about 100 km from Durban.

The massive storm that hit Durban on October 10 caused a container of nurdles to fall from a ship belonging to the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) into Durban harbour. As a result millions of nurdles have spread along the coastline‚ with some spotted as far afield as Port Elizabeth.

Conservation experts have called it an ecological disaster.

Nurdles‚ used to manufacture plastic products‚ are an environmental hazard as they are digested by birds and sea life and cause digestive problems. Nurdles that remain in the ocean for a long period break down and are absorbed as toxins. A statement issued by MSC on November 3 said the company was “accelerating” the clean-up of the plastic pellets.

This included appointing a specialist company‚ Drizit Environmental‚ and global salvage company‚ Resolve Marine Group‚ to clean 200 km of KZN coastal beaches. This has included the use of specialised boats and machinery to extract the material from the harbour water and sieving sand by hand on the beaches.

MSC stated that the impact on the three MSC ships in the harbour on the day of the storm resulted in damage in the region of $10-million.

KZN Wildlife honorary officers in Amatikulu met at the reserve on the weekend to generate a plan to retrieve the nurdles from the estuary.

KZN Marine Waste Network‚ a body that comprises government‚ research organisations‚ conservation bodies and industry‚ are meeting on Tuesday November 21 to commit to an action plan to address the problem of marine plastic in general and nurdles in particular.

Caroline Reid‚ secretary of the KZN Marine Waste Network‚ said nurdles had served to highlight the scope of waste management issues. “We have been trying to action people to coordinate for ages. This disaster has unified us.”

Hundreds of KZN volunteers have helped clean up local beaches over the past few weekends.

It is estimated that close to 200 25kg bags of nurdles are still missing.