Plastic Pollution in Namibia
Skeleton coast, Namibia. Photo source: Bridget Henderson
By Leslie Moyer, The 5 Gyres
When the 5 Gyres South Atlantic expedition crew arrived safely in Nambia where they would set sail for the second leg of the South Atlantic gyre expedition, they were in a beach town Swakopmund.
The Skeleton Coast is surrounded by breathtaking dunes, the oldest desert on Earth, and imagery reminiscent of both Road Warrior and Sebastião Salgado’s timeless landscapes in his Genesis project. The beaches are beautiful, but a walk along the shoreline and a quick beach cleanup showed that like coastal areas all over the world, Namibia has a problem with plastic trash accumulating on its otherwise relatively pristine beaches.
Based on what I found on the beach and knowing that the Namibian coast is not an accumulation zone, we can assume that the majority of the plastic trash photographed here was left by beachgoers rather than washed up by actions of the gyre. Trash building up on beaches is one of the most direct pathways to marine plastic pollution, and every time the tide comes in, the actions of the Atlantic Ocean bring much of what is on the beach out to sea.
With one of the lowest population densities in Africa, the majority of Namibians live in dire poverty on less than $2 a day. It’s estimated that one in five of Namibians are infected with HIV, and AIDS as the leading cause of death in the country. The country has a looming energy crisis and unemployment rates at unacceptably high levels. With negligible funds for coastal protection, trash will continue to accumulate until something drastic changes. Many of the packaging that ends up here is produced nationally in Africa, but I saw remnants of imported products hailing from as far away as the US and Argentina.
The effects of our throwaway culture has reaches far beyond our backyard.