Ocean warrior Clare Swithenbank-Bowman has come up with an exciting national clean-up competition to help combat the nurdle problem on our beaches and in our ocean – while at the same time helping feed the underprivileged in our communities. We found out more about this win-win (and win!) venture.

If you love the ocean and want to give back to your community … and you like winning prizes (!) then you need to enter the Litter4Tokens national nurdle clean-up competition.
What is a nurdle? Also known as a mermaid tear, nurdles are small lentil-sized plastic pellets that are shipped, shrink-wrapped in 25kg bags, to factories around the world to be melted and used to form plastic products.

Following a catastrophic spill of trillions of these little plastic pellets in August 2020 off the coast of Plettenberg Bay (and an earlier spill in Durban harbour in 2017), there are still hundreds of thousands of them in our oceans and washing up on our beaches. And it’s time to clean them up!

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A surfer, ocean-lover and philanthropist, Clare founded a non-profit organisation called Litter4Tokens seven years ago, with two goals: preventing ocean-bound litter from getting to our beaches and into our sea, and helping feed underprivileged communities.
The concept behind Litter4Tokens is simple: people hand in bags of separated rubbish (that would otherwise end up in the ocean or in landfill sites in exchange for tokens. They then use these tokens to buy dry goods at one of the nine (soon to be 15) token centres around the country.

Although she now lives in the USA with her husband and three children, Clare’s heart is still very much in South Africa. She has launched the nurdle competition alongside Litter4Token’s other ongoing projects.

So how does it work? Litter4Tokens are selling nifty little frisbees called Mermaid Tear Catchers (MCT’s), which were invented by Clare, to sieve the beach sand and ‘catch’ nurdles. The money from the sale of the MTC’s goes straight back into restocking Litter4Tokens shops and the nurdles collected are put into big collection drums, which have been positioned at lifesaving clubs along the coastline, all the way from the Cape to Sodwana.

Prizes will be awarded to both the lifesaving club (in the form of cash) as well as the individuals who collect the most nurdles over a period of eight months. Up for grabs are: R10 000 Hurricane Surf vouchers, a Jacki Bruniquel photography course, yoga lessons with Helen Garner, FitKit yoga wear vouchers, weekends away at The Cavern Resort & Spa and Zimbali dinner vouchers.

“This is an education and clean-up campaign that addresses the devastating impact of nurdles on marine life as well as feeding the nation,” says Clare. “The idea behind Litter4Tokens is that we are running a ‘prevention campaign’ on the ground so that, hopefully one day we won’t have to do beach clean-ups any longer!”

Clare, who recently returned to South Africa to accept a SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development) award from the United Nations, is also on the hunt for corporates to help fund the token shops. “We have local businesses, shopping centres and schools who are collecting and recycling goods and donating their rebates to us. We are a registered Section 18A NPC, so we can provide tax certificates for businesses.”

To enter, simply collect your nurdles, take a picture and upload it (along with your Mermaid Tear Catcher code (if you bought one) and the geographic location or name of the lifesaving club where you are disposing them) to North Coast drum sites are: Willard Beach, ZEMA offices at Zimbali, The Surfboard Agent in Ballito and Rox Lifesaving Club in Umhlanga.

Details:, [email protected]

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