On Sunday, Andy and I spent a good hour or so rifling through the bush in search of unwanted bounty. The treasure we sought? Plastic. Lots and lots of plastic.
We joined the Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew to help rid Curl Curl Lagoon of some of its rubbish. This involved grabbing a bucket, heading into the undergrowth, and rooting out all the waste and litter we could find. We’ve never helped with something like this before so I was interested to see how much we would come across. I had no idea just how quickly we’d fill our bucket.
Once we started I felt like I was seeing rubbish everywhere. I picked up a bottle top, which led me to a bottle, which led me to a coffee cup, which led me to another bottle top, which led me to little pieces of Styrofoam, which led me to an empty food wrapper…It was like a treasure trail; a disgusting little treasure trail. We sifted through the bushes and the grass, pulled things out of the water, and removed things from the branches of trees. We were surrounded by a beautiful environment that had literally been infested with litter and plastic.
Buckets that had been filled were then poured out onto a sheet so that we could see the amount of rubbish that had been collected. The results were truly alarming. In just an hour and a half the Clean Up Crew had amassed a veritable mountain of litter. Once we reconvened, the pile was then sorted into categories so we could assess the main culprits. Here are some of the figures from the day:
- Cigarette lighters – 12
- Pens, markers & other stationery – 16
- Straws, confection sticks, cups, plates & cutlery – 315
- Toothbrushes, combs & hair ties – 9
- Lids & tops – 534
- Personal care & pharmaceutical packaging – 128
- Plastic bags – 28
- Plastic drink bottles – 45
- Plastic packaging (food) – 407
- Plastic packaging (non-food) – 322
- Glow sticks – 20
- Plastic bits & pieces (hard and soft) – 429
- Plastic film remnants – 94
- Insulation & packaging (whole and remnants) – 860
- Glass beer stubbies & pre-mixed alcohol bottles – 89
- Aluminium cans – 27
- Sushi fish soy containers – 70
Quite the collection. And this from just an hour and a half of cleaning up. It boggles the mind when you try to imagine how much waste is out there, lurking in our environment, waiting to creep its way into our oceans.
Plastic is a huge problem. According to World Economic Forum, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by the time we reach 2050. Something needs to change before we see ourselves drowning in plastic. Healthy oceans are vitally important – they generate half the oxygen we breathe! We can’t afford to allow this plague of plastic to continue.
So what can we do to help?
I’d like to think that throwing things in the bin and not on the ground is the norm for most of us, but that’s obviously not the case. If you see rubbish on the ground then pick it up and throw it in the garbage. Even better than that is to reduce your use of plastic altogether. The root of this plastic problem is in how much of this stuff is produced for our consumption. Buy reusable bags, don’t buy bottled water, bring a keep cup for your takeaway coffee. There are so many small changes we can make that will help to reduce the amount of waste we create.
And of course, why not come along to one of the clean-ups and help the Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew with their incredibly valuable work. They meet on the last Sunday of the month, and you can find out more information of their Facebook page. It only takes a couple of hours to help make a difference, and you’ll get to meet some truly inspiring people.
Join the growing number of people who want to see an end to this plastic pollution, and stand up for the environment we love and the animals with whom we share it.