Investigation of microplastic pollution sources along the Umgeni River

Most individuals, if not all, have been told the story of King Midas; everything he touched turned to gold. Approximately 100 years ago, a similar wish was granted, but in this case, everything we touch turns to plastic. The plastic era has led to widespread pollution, the destruction of habitats and reduced water quality, all of which impact the quality of life on the planet. In recent years, microplastics have sparked the interest of several researchers, considering that they are present in our oceans, rivers, the air we breathe, the food we eat and even in our bodies.

The Umgeni River is a significant water source in Durban that sustains various unique ecosystems and provides essential resources for human and natural communities. The Umgeni River is surrounded by informal settlements, wastewater treatment plants and stormwater drains, all of which have been identified as microplastic sources in other regions. My research aims to identify and investigate potential microplastic sources along the Umgeni River to aid in developing appropriate strategies to reduce/prevent microplastics from entering the river. This is essential because the types of plastics produced in each place, how waste is disposed of, and environmental factors influence the sources of microplastic pollution, indicating that microplastic sources will differ for each region. Furthermore, identifying microplastic sources along the Umgeni River creates potential for developing sound microplastic pollution management strategies to improve river health and reduce the amount of plastic reaching the ocean.

Yashmika Ramlakhan

BSS (Geography and Environmental Management)

BSSH (Geography and Environmental Management)

MSc Eng (Waste and Resource Management)