During a major storm inside the Durban Harbor on 10 October 2017 – a container ship lost two containers over the side. The containers were recovered but all cargo was lost. The cargo was a consignment of polyethylene beads (also known as nurdles). These beads are the raw product for just about every plastic product we use. They are about 5mm in diameter and they partially float. Fortunately these beads are not toxic but may cause problems to animals, mammals and fish if ingested .

Resolve was contracted to act as advisors during the cleanup operations, providing guidance, technical support, and methodology, as well as liaising with the local coast-state maritime and environmental authorities, as well as overseeing the HazMat beach cleaning teams. 

This project started with bead pollution in the Durban Harbour and Durban beachfront areas but after Resolve implemented a beach inspection protocol which embraced the original storm drift analysis, ROV techniques, and aerial surveillance, it was soon realised that the project needed to be rapidly extended to the Northern coastline for many hundreds of kilometres  Beaches were inspected from the border with Mozambique, and then all the way South to the Cape – well over 1,500 Km walked!

These Nurdles/ Beads are being removed from beaches, harbours, and lagoons using manual labour forces – using simple sieve technology in the environmentally sensitive beach and lagoon areas – as well as Resolve designed mechanical techniques where allowed. Over 2 billion Nurdles have been removed.

This project continues to challenge the Resolve team in many ways as they manage a 200+ strong HazMat workforce daily, from the “ industrious” environment of Africa’s busiest port of Durban, to the pristine lagoons of the Amatikulu Nature Reserve Lagoon, then further North to uMhlatuze –  some 300 Km of beaches North of Durban. These remote locations had the highest concentration of beads so far. Small mobile teams have been working on the lagoon shorelines with no road access, no shops and no support. Everything the team needs has to be brought on 4×4 vehicles.

A typical bead deposit on Durban Main Beach
60 man clean up team removing beads from Durban Main beach