Review

he Litterboom Project.
Umgeni River Mouth, Durban. Source: Joshua Redman and Cameron Service, The Litterboom Project.
  • eThekwini Municipality walked away with an award as being the Greenest City in the world. 
  • But while it can boast that is has the highest percentage of green space in urban areas and the highest percentage of urban areas covered by trees – it has a huge waste problem when it has heavy rains. 
  • The city says it has employed additional staff to assist in central clean-ups to mop up the problem for now.   
  • But, more considered interventions need to be made at its source, upstream, and not the beach where thousands of vacationers could end up swimming in it.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

While eThekwini Municipality walked away with an award as being the Greenest City in the world, it still continues to battle waves of plastic every time heavy rains hit. 

Durban came out on top, beating the likes of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, and Austin, in the US according to the HUGSI-index. The index compared the level of greenness in 98 cities from 51 countries, divided into 7 regions. 

Durban’s defining qualities were having the highest percentage of green space in urban areas and the highest percentage of urban area covered by trees.

But, while the city can give itself a huge pat on the back for its efforts of becoming a world leader in green spaces, it still is plagued with waves of plastic that come flooding down its rivers and into the ocean every time there are heavy rains. 

The most recent stream which saw tons of waster flush into the ocean was captured by Joshua Redman and Cameron Service, who run The Litterboom Project. The footage that went viral shows thousands of bottles crashing in the waves where the Umgeni River Mouth meets the ocean.   

Msawakhe Mayisela, eThekwini Municipality Spokesperson, told Business Insider that it happens excessively during high winds and rain.   

“Yes, the City experiences this whenever there is a high volume of water, which comes down the river. It is not only the Umgeni River, but in all areas where the rivers lead directly into the sea,” Msawakhe Mayisela, eThekwini Municipality Spokesperson, told Business Insider. 

The waste could take weeks to clean up and with Christmas and New Year’s Day a few days away, thousands of holiday-makers could well be swimming in trash as the river mouth is located a mere 5.7km from one of Durban's most popular beaches, North Beach

Google Maps
North Beach. Source: Google Maps

The City says it has employed additional staff to assist in central clean-ups to mop up the problem.   

“We are also operating on an extended-hours basis to deal with the excess and additional workload caused through the storm damages…. however, ongoing rain and winds do not assist in this matter. The City already has its Festive Season Management Committee Plan in place and additional seasonal staff is procured to help with the beachfront operations with effect from the 1 December 2019 until mid-January 2020.” 

However, this is only a temporary solution. The problem is the waste comes from sources higher up, and while the implementation of innovations like Litterboom’s waste catching pipes have managed to clean up some 1,000 tons of trash since May, there clearly is a lot of work to be done mitigating the excess in future, at its source. 

“The booms retain the plastic, which is then collected in bags by Council staff and designated groups appointed to do so under the Province as part of an employment opportunity,” said Mayisela.

Read more: Shocking footage caught tons of plastic crashing in the waves off Durban following heavy rains 

Meanwhile eThekwini Municipality’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit has requested the public and non-governmental organisations or any interested party to contact the Acting District Manager, through the North Beach office on 031 322 4350 /4330 to assist with clean-up operations. 

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