Plastic pollution is widespread. The Zwartkops estuary is no exception with litter along the river banks and adjacent areas fed by ponds, canals and tributaries.
Most people by now should be aware of the devastating impact that plastic has on aquatic life never mind on human beings who consume the fish.
To alleviate this impact, the ZC was forced to begin collecting litter in the estuary about 10 years ago and has been doing so ever since. In the last 3 years over 42 000 bags of litter, mainly plastic, has been collected. It is a big task.
Our team of litter pickers, usually 4 or 5, work 49 weeks of the year. Litter is collected along the entire tidal zone from Settlers Bridge to the power lines just below Sumcay; a distance of about 14 kilometres. We also target adjacent ‘hot spots’ in an effort to prevent litter reaching the river.
Our boat, Curlew, collects the bags in out of the way places along the river banks and transports them and litter pickers to a point accessible to the Metro for collection. We have recently acquired a trailer so we now set aside that which can be recycled thus reducing the volume to landfill.
The major plastic polluter in the estuary is the Motherwell canal which, unfortunately, is cement lined. This also applies to most of the huge network of stormwater drains leading into the canal. Huge volumes of litter are quickly carried down to the river whenever it rains. There are litter traps along the canal but they are quickly overwhelmed. The biggest quantity of bags collected in the river near the canal was the result of a downpour on January 5 2017 when 970 bags were collected over a period of nearly 2 weeks.
We rely heavily on our sponsors; especially Spar since 2016 who have been a fantastic help particularly when we have had to cease operations on the odd occasion due to a shortfall in funding.
We have a group of volunteer skippers who man our boat, Curlew. Special thanks to Peter Senn, Rod Lochhead and Louis Beyers; the latter two also volunteer their boats on occasion when the ZC boat is in for service or repair.
We are proud to say that thanks to our efforts the river is relatively clear of plastic litter!