Pollution across the world reduced drastically in a number of countries which were put into hard lockdowns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more countries have started opening up for both locals and tourists alike, pollution has increased again.

A recent study has found that litter in the CBD area of both Cape Town and Durban have not just doubled, but tripled, as compared to the litter found during the hard lockdown.

Researchers conducted street litter surveys from April 20, 2020 in suburbs of Cape Town (Muizenberg) and Durban (Kloof).

“The study areas were selected to include a similar mix of residential and retail areas, and both contained government offices (police station and magistrate’s court in Muizenberg; community clinic in Kloof) as well as food shops that remained open during the lockdown. The Cape Town residential area included three areas where household waste is collected weekly,” the study read. “We cleaned, dried and weighed all litter items.”

Speaking to EWN, Professor Peter Ryan, Director of the Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), said the study based its analysis on the origin of the rubbish collected.

“Standard protocol is to clean an area and then look at the arrival rate of new litter so it doesn’t get confounded by waffle that is there, so for 50 days we just monitored the arrival rate of new litter and looking at where it came from,” he said.

The study found that in Muizenberg, 3741 items of litter with a total weight of 18.2kg was collected over a 50-day period from the start of lockdown level 5. In Kloof in Durban, 2271 items of litter were collected over the same period, weighing in at 7.6kg.

Models showed that the number of litter items increased at approximately 4% per day in Cape Town and 2% per day in Durban as the lockdown progressed. At both sites, models showed that the number of litter items was approximately three times higher in level 3 than during the hard lockdown, while the mass of litter was nine and four times higher in level 3 than level 5 in Cape Town and Durban, respectively.

According to Ryan, while the tobacco product ban was in full effect during this time, their study found that there was an increase in tobacco-related products found in both cities during lockdown level 5. Tobacco-related litter made up 33% of the rubbish found. Convenience food and beverage packages made up a further 29%.

“At both sites, over 95% of litter items appeared to have been deliberately littered by pedestrians or vehicle passengers,” the study continued. “Of these street litter items, on-the-go food packaging and tobacco-related products accounted for more than 60% at both sites, although these items contributed less by mass.”

Picture: Cape Town CCID

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.