Colombo, Sri Lanka

Clean4Change Sri Lanka

The Alliance's Clean4Change programme partnered the Sri Lankan government to clean up 240 km of coastline littered with plastic pellets, or nurdles.

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Colombo, Sri Lanka: Produced by our friends at BeachTech in Germany, the ‘Sweepy’ machines are fit with a mesh that can sieve out tiny particles like nurdles efficiently.

Colombo, Sri Lanka: Produced by our friends at BeachTech in Germany, the ‘Sweepy’ machines are fit with a mesh that can sieve out tiny particles like nurdles efficiently.

Overview

When Sri Lanka's shoreline was polluted by nurdles, we partnered with the Marine Environment Protection Authority of Sri Lanka and BeachTech to ramp up cleanup efforts by supplying 8 cleanup machines, called Sweepy Hydros.

Location

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Stepping up to help clean Sri Lanka’s coast

When the MV X-Press Pearl cargo ship sank off the coast of Colombo in Sri Lanka, plastic pellets, or nurdles, littered 240 km of shoreline. The lentil-sized nurdles were swept on and off the beach with the waves and were nearly impossible to clean up by hand.

The Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) in Sri Lanka urgently needed equipment to help thousands of volunteers and the military finish the beach cleanup. German company, Beachtech, was able to customise their specialised machines to sieve out the nurdles, while leaving Sri Lanka’s fine white sand on the beach.

Enter the ‘Sweepy’.

The Alliance donated 8 BeachTech Sweepy Hydros to the Sri Lankan Government in August. Each unit separated nurdles from 4,000 m², or 6 football fields, of beach every hour. This significantly sped up the cleanup process. Fewer people were required to clean the same stretch of beach, and this reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection. Each Sweepy collected up to 250,000 nurdles per day.

“I would like to thank the Alliance for their help. They understood the responsibility each of us has when a crisis of this nature happens, because it can be a transboundary issue.”

Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson, MEPA

A timely response to a pressing issue

At first, cleanup efforts were focused on the visible nurdles on the surface of the beach. With time, the pellets became more deeply embedded in the sand, requiring a more innovative approach. Sri Lanka was also preparing for their annual monsoon season, when any uncollected nurdles could be washed back into the ocean, polluting other shorelines.

The Sweepy machines scooped down up to 11 layers of sand, excavating nurdles from below the surface of the beach and preventing further leakage into the environment.