Operation Clean Sweep – limiting microplastics in the ocean

According to Douw Steyn, Sustainability Director at Plastics|SA, the primary goal of the Operation Clean Sweep campaign is to stop plastic pellets, flakes and powder used in the plastics industry, from reaching the ocean.

Yogurt“We, as the plastics industry, produce the pellets and flakes used to manufacture plastic bags, bottles and other plastic products. When these micro-plastics are spilled during the manufacturing process, they are swept into drains from where they enter the sewerage system and eventually end up in rivers and ultimately the ocean.

These pellets are smaller than a sunflower seed in length, but wider and are therefore not easy to pick up during regular beach clean-ups. As a result, they are ingested by turtles, birds and marine life,” Steyn explains.

Mark Liptrot, Sustainability Manager at the packaging company, Constantia Afripak, said the extended effect of plastics on the ocean is a growing problem as micro-plastics attract chemical pollutants that are ingested by marine life, which, in turn, is eaten by other marine animals.

“It is where we use it, how we use it, and what we do with the plastic product once we are done with it that is important. To address this problem and offer a workable solution, Plastics|SA launched “Operation Clean Sweep” – a worldwide drive aimed at reducing the amount of plastic pellets that end up in rivers and ultimately in the ocean”, Steyn said.

He added that the plastics industry as a whole had a role to play – from the producers and importers of raw materials pellets and flakes, to the converters and manufacturers of plastic products, as well as the recycling companies.

“Our goal is to achieve zero pellet, flake, and powder loss. Whilst it might seem to be an ambitious target, we believe it is possible through containment and the implementation of good housekeeping practices,” he said.

DSC_2908Catherine Constantinides, head of Miss Earth South Africa endorsed Operation Clean Sweep. “To help highlight the importance of clean oceans, Miss Earth SA ambassadors took part in 100 beach clean-ups across the country. But it’s not just cleaning up that’s important. Educating and creating awareness are equally necessary. If we don’t educate, we will be doing clean-ups for the next 20 years of World Ocean Day.

We are appealing to retailers and the public at large to realise that they too have a vital role to play in ensuring that plastic products and waste do not end up polluting the environment,” Constantinides implored.

What is the value of farm and anti-poaching security?

Rhino2From poached rhinos to killing for subsistence, and criminal farm attacks, the agricultural, wildlife ranching and tourism industries face an onslaught of incursions.

In South Africa alone, three rhino are killed a day; game, poultry and livestock are targeted; and (in 2016) 446 humans were brutally assaulted in their homes, on their farms. This year, AfriForum reported that 30 farm attacks were recorded in the first two weeks of February, resulting in 11 heartless murders.

As is the case in any security breach, perpetrators will always look for a soft target; criminals always follow the path of least resistance. Safeguarding against poaching and attacks is no easy feat, and expert assistance should be employed to tighten defences and prevent a breach.

DSC_0971“Our management team enjoys a deep, personal appreciation for the rich history of South Africa’s wildlife and agricultural environment,” says Jacqueline Condon, the Managing Director at Apache Security Services. “Poaching and violent farm attacks continue to plague our country, and this must be stopped.”

The starting point of any good farm protection strategy is a security audit. It is fundamental to identify the holes in the defences, and implement targeted strategies to ensure that no shortfalls remain. These shortfalls will be exploited – and the results could be catastrophic.

Condon believes that the answer lies in deploying specialist Farm Security Units, comprising expert ‘foot soldiers’ and anti-poaching members, to assist in combatting and preventing these problems. “There are six distinct ways for farmers, lodges and game farms to protect their investments, their livelihoods and their lives,” confirms Condon.

“Start with operatives that live onsite in camps or other accommodation. Surveillance should be conducted by air (with drones and thermal imaging), by land (with operatives patrolling on foot, in vehicles and on four-wheelers), and with frequent perimeter inspections. Placing of traps and bush cameras aids in tracking, while 24-hour contact and armed response are essential. Security providers should consult with local law enforcement, join community forums and provide farmer and family escorts when necessary. Vetting of farm staff is a crucial step in thwarting the spread of inside information.”

DSC_0954Due to the size of agricultural and wildlife properties, managing risks and maintaining security can pose a challenge. While awareness of one’s surroundings, personal protection skills and caution in suspicious circumstances contribute to safety, there is no substitute for professional, armed and immediate assistance when the need arises.

“Farm security cannot be taken lightly and requires dedicated commitment from the practitioners putting their lives on the line to provide a service,” concludes Condon. “It is essential that these teams are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, and are armed with firearms and ammunition specifically required to defend this unique environment.”

How an important South African wetland has been restored

As of 30 May 2017, 1.290million cubic metres of dredged soil have been moved from the Lake St Lucia estuarine system. This translates into almost 95% of the anticipated 1.363million cubic metres of dredge spoil which will be removed by early July, marking an important milestone in the process of ecological restoration for the Lake St Lucia estuarine system,” says Andrew Zaloumis, CEO of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

In January 2016, iSimangaliso embarked on a R63 million project towards the restoration of the Lake St Lucia Estuary. This followed an extensive consultation process with inter alia UCOSP and scientific research concerning the health of the system and its ecological and economic importance.

The rehabilitation project comprises the removal of dredge spoil that was artificially placed in the uMfolozi River course by conservation authorities at the time, to protect the Estuary from what were believed to be damaging effects of the canalisation of the uMfolozi River and the draining of the uMfolozi floodplain for some 9100ha of sugarcane farming.

Some of the sugarcane farms lie in the tidal floodplain and are prone to backflooding – a natural estuarine process. The uMfolozi River is the powerhouse that drives the proper functioning of the estuary mouth, so the improper functioning resulted in species mortality and the collapse of prawn fisheries in the region.

Notwithstanding the extensive consultation with UCOSP (the body responsible for flood protection on the floodplain) and UCOSPs endorsement of the management plan for the Estuary, UCOSP and two farmers took iSimangaliso to the high court to compel it to breach the mouth. The application was dismissed on 21 April 2017 when Judge Mohini Moodley handed down her full judgment in the matter.

“The judgement secures this lifeline for Lake St Lucia for the greater good,” says Zaloumis. “It is still early days, but the first gains are already visible. Nature’s healing has begun.

“The area being removed was shown to be the most important portion of the dredge spoil ‘island’ to remove. Removing the eastern area of the dredge spoil will help to reinstate the hydrodynamic processes and allow a much more natural mouth dynamic to Lake St Lucia,” explains estuarine ecologist, Nicolette Forbes.

Good summer rainfall and unseasonal rains during May have also contributed to making the system more robust and is in stark contrast to the dismal state of the Lake in February last year when only 10% of the Lake’s surface area was covered by water.

From October 2016 to March 2017 approximately 870 mm of rainfall was recorded in the catchment area, including the Lake St Lucia Estuary.

Estuary high levels on May 17

Estuary high levels on May 17

The system received an additional significant supplement in excess of over 300mm between 11-16 May 2017. This contributed to a substantial increase in the water flowing in the uMfolozi River and most of the increase in water level in the Lake can be attributed to the inputs from this catchment.

The water depth is now approximately 1 – 1.2m throughout the system and salinity remains low – with freshwater conditions throughout the Estuary. Water also flowed into the lake from other catchments, such as the uMphathe and uMkhuze Rivers.

The monitoring data collected indicates the movement of water from the uMfolozi River into the Narrows and northwards to the upper lake portions. This emphasises the importance of the uMfolozi River as a water source for this estuary.

“Lake St Lucia estuary’s life blood has been returned and this puts the system in a good position as we move into the naturally dry winter months where we can expect water levels to reduce through evaporation,” concludes Zaloumis.