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The Litter Boom Project

In mid-November, after the heavy rains, I contacted Cameron Service, the innovator and director of The Litter Boom Project - TLP. He had just come off the beaches and I have to say he sounded rather over-whelmed and a bit depressed about the enormity of the plastic pollution on the coastline as a result of the storms. A week later, I met with him to find out more about his passion project. Cam is a surfer and a spear fisherman and it was these ocean activities that made him aware of the extent of how plastic pollution was affecting our oceans and coastlines. What started as an experiment has developed into an internationally recognised NPO that is not only focussed on the prevention of plastic from reaching the sea, but also on creating a circular economy behind the waste by involving local communities in the recovery and recycling of plastic.

The Litter Boom Project’s slogan is AVOID. INTERCEPT. REDESIGN. Each of these is vital for TLP to attain its ultimate goals which are to have zero plastic ending up in the oceans of the world and zero plastic ending up in landfills globally.

AVOID: Currently, this is the state of affairs regarding plastic:- Plastic production in South Africa is increasing annually but there is very little legislation to control the type of plastics that are produced, and there is no significant and enforced responsibility on the industry to increase contributions for the removal/management of plastic waste. There needs to be an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) model that is enforced by Government. Presently, the plastics industry is dictating to Government about recycling, and to compound the ongoing problem of waste, it is using virgin plastic as it is cheaper than recycled plastic. South Africa alone has more mismanaged plastic waste than the whole of Europe - 54% is mismanaged! This is obviously untenable but there are several ways to start to rectify the situation. Government needs to pass immediate legislation to ban the production of SINGLE USE plastic. The only way Government is going to do that is by the private sector getting involved and applying pressure. As Cam says: “The more people that challenge in their personal capacity, the more effective pressure can be brought to bear on Government to facilitate change.” So that means YOU!  

  • Write a letter to the national Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries – Ms Barbara Creecy. Her personal Assistant’s email: or Better still, organise a petition with family, friends, neighbours, schools, church and your community, and send that to her. Do not underestimate the power of public pressure on political will.

  • If your favourite supermarket is using non-recyclable packaging, make your opinion known to them and if you feel strongly enough, boycott them or the offending products until there is change. If consumer pressure is applied and starts reflecting on their image and their profit margins, the retail giants will be forced to get their suppliers to only use re-cyclable packaging. (So many fruit and vegetables are packaged in polystyrene or plastic trays, when cardboard trays would be just as good.) There also needs to be BLATANT labelling on packaging indicating if it is recyclable.

INTERCEPT: The Litter Booms consist of a series of plastic pipes that have been sealed at both ends and are strung across the river to trap floating plastic. The booms are placed at an angle across the river so that the plastic accumulates close to the riverbank where it is retrieved by teams from nearby communities and taken for recycling. Cam admits that it is not a very scientific or sophisticated system, but its simplicity is so effective that it results in the collection of between 500 and 1000kgs of plastic being collected PER DAY on rivers that are equipped with Litter Booms. The project prefers to target the narrower tributaries before the plastic gets to the main rivers which are too wide to boom. Presently the Ohlanga, the Upper Mngeni, the Umhlatuzana, the Umbilo and the Mlazi rivers are fitted with Litter Booms.

In Cam’s perfect world, in ten years’ time there will be no need for Litter Booms. But until then, his organisation works on three fronts: * Prevention – booms on rivers and catchments. * Beach clean-ups - they create awareness but are not really efficient because only about 10% of what comes down the rivers ends up on the beaches AND, remote beaches are not accessible but are just as badly affected. * Education – making our youth aware of the magnitude of the problem of plastic pollution and getting them actively involved and invested in, not only the prevention but also the current potential. (Wildlands Conservation Trust are making school desks and building blocks out of recycled plastic and they are running their vehicles on diesel made from polystyrene.)

REDESIGN – The creation of a feasible, viable and sustainable model that can be used globally.

See more on The Litter Boom Project on Page 9

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