Press releases

Vodacom Group

Vodacom helps keep litter out of the Marine Environment

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Vodacom Beach Clean Up campaign is drawing to a close. Having run since 15 December, 190 previously unemployed people have been hard at work helping to keep 22 of the country's busiest beaches as litter free as possible. So far the Vodacom cleaners have removed 23,294 bags of litter nationally, this figure is over and above municipal efforts. Kwa Zulu Natal beaches account for 12,652 bags with 5,176 removed from Eastern Cape beaches and 5,538 bags in the Western Cape. The busiest beach so far appears to have been Margate beach on the KZN south coast with 400 bags of litter collected on 31 December and a further 325 packets removed on New Year's Day.

Pollution on beaches has serious visible effects on the surrounding environment but what most people do not see are the effects it has on marine animals and their ecosystems. Of all the types of pollutants that make their way into the marine environment via littering, plastic is the worst. Not biodegradable, an ordinary plastic container can take anywhere between 50 and 100 years to degrade, and since it's advent in the 1950's over 1 billion tons of plastic have been discarded.

Naturally, marine animals are affected by litter disposed of on beaches which enter into their environment. As most marine mammals are inquisitive by nature they will swim through plastic and rope to get a closer look. Unfortunately, these items can get caught around the different parts of the animal's body, and as they grow the plastic or rope will cut into their flesh causing disfigurement, pain and ultimately death.

Another more lethal way in which litter affects marine animals is through ingestion. Turtles will often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their preferred food sources. No sea animal is safe from eating plastic as it can be suspended at different depths of the ocean, and can travel great distances from its original entry point into the sea. Even very tiny animals will consume minute pieces of plastic which look no different from plankton due to their small size. The ultimate tragedy is that by eating indigestible materials the animal will feel full and eventually starve to death.

Sue-Ann Shutte, a Senior Animal Care Giver at the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) emphasized the importance of keeping litter out of the marine environment. "Seabirds are naturally curious and will eat anything. One of the biggest problems we are faced with is when marine birds eat fish heads that still have a hook inside the mouth and are often connected to a length of fishing line and a sinker!"

Shutte added that fish heads are often left on the beach by careless fishermen who don't remove the tackle once they have cut the lines. "It may sound a little strange, but another common and lethal pollutant is plastic cold drink straws. Birds eat them and subsequently they concertina inside the gut and cause starvation".

The Vodacom Beach Clean Up campaign is primarily aimed at helping local municipalities control litter based pollution during the holiday season. Keeping litter off the beaches and out of the sea decreases its impact on marine animals, and campaigns like this one helps raise awareness among the public about how their behaviour impacts on the environment around them. 

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