Feature Story

South Africa aims to stop marine litter at its source

October 1, 2020

The beautiful city of Cape Town, with its gorgeous mountains white sand beaches and clear blue water
Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Dereje/Shutterstock

Every year, between 90,000 and 250,000 metric tons of rubbish enter the oceans that surround South Africa. This marine litter can damage ship engines and propellers. It becomes entangled in nets and other fishing equipment. It drives away tourists. It’s often ingested by birds, mammals, and fish, causing them to choke or become sick. And it can find its way into the human food chain.

A new GEF-funded United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project driven by the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is joining forces with local officials, non-profit groups, like Coastwatch and Durban Green Corridors, and Plastics SA, a privately-owned company, to stem the flow of marine litter in five river systems in Kwazulu-Natal. Through increased litter collection and community-led waste sorting and recycling, the department will reduce litter generation at its source, thereby lessening the amount of pollution that reaches the ocean.

The initiative is being funded through the Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Protection of the Western Indian Ocean from Land-Based Sources and Activities, executed by the Nairobi Convention. This project will reduce land-based stresses on this environment by protecting critical habitats, improving water quality, and managing  river flows. The convention, part of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme, serves as a platform for governments, civil society and the private sector to work together for the sustainable management and use of the Western Indian Ocean.