Municipality, volunteers clean up Dubai beaches after plastic granules' spill

On Tuesday visitors on Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim beaches first spotted the thousands of nurdles that washed up ashore


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sat 25 Feb 2023, 3:33 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Feb 2023, 3:39 PM

Dubai Municipality (DM) as well as multiple volunteers have come together to continue cleaning the beaches of Dubai for at least four days after thousands of micro plastic balls washed up. Their combined efforts have paid off as volunteers say that large swathes of the beach have now been cleaned.

On Friday, DM tweeted about the cleaning procedures they have undertaken on the beach.

“#DubaiMunicipality launched cleaning campaigns after the spread of polyethylene granules on Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim beaches to ensure the seabed’s cleanliness and the marine environment’s sustainability. It is important to note that they aren’t dangerous to beachgoers.”

It was on Tuesday that visitors to the beach first spotted the thousands and thousands of nurdles that washed up on the beach. “To me it first looked like the foam of the water,” said Sadia Khan, a regular beachgoer. “But when I went closer and looked at it, I realized they were small plastic balls.”

How these balls ended up on the beach is unclear, but it is thought to be a spill in the ocean. “There has been a spill of microbeads, called nurdles,” said Tatiana Antonelli Abella, the founder of Goumbook, an environmental nonprofit organisation.

“Nurdles are basically a new kind of plastic that is supposed to go to factories to be melted into different shapes and used. Unfortunately, there has been a spill. We still don’t know who spilled it or how it happened or when, but the result is that most of the beaches around the Burj Al Arab are filled with these beads.”

Immediate Response

According to Sadia, she soon spotted municipality workers as well as several volunteers cleaning up the beach every day since then. “It was amazing how quickly everyone responded.”

On Friday, Goumbook partnered with a few corporates as well as municipality workers to bring together volunteers and clean up the premises of sunset beach in Jumeirah. Several of them turned up to clear the beach of waste products including nurdles and cigarette butts.

“Today we are here because there is an emergency with the nurdles,” said Tatiana. “It is impressive to see the response of the public. We put out a call to action on all our social media channels and the turnout has been amazing. At least 100 people showed up. We brought some material but also people brought their own things from home like buckets and sieves. Some people are straight in the water while others concentrated on the shore.”

According to Tatiana, the clean-up was important to them because it tied in with another campaign that Goumbook has been running for a year. “The volunteers not only found nurdles but also a lot of plastic and cigarette butts,” she said. “Last year we launched a campaign called called save the butts. Many people don’t understand that cigarette butts are plastic and have a huge impact on the environment and on the marine wildlife. We have partnered with a startup that makes construction material from cigarette butts.”

Having functioned in the UAE since 2009, Tatiana said she has seen an increasingly positive attitude from residents towards the environment. “People are a lot more engaging and committed to work to better the environment,” she said.

One of the aims of Goumbook is to teach people about a circular economy. “What we are trying to do is really changing mindset,” she said. “We teach about how waste can become a valuable resource. We want them to change the way they see waste, food and water and understand the opportunities as well as risk. Think about what to do when we don’t have any more clean water.”


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