How can a beach that looks so pristine, hide so much rubbish?
Together with 12 colleagues, we set out on a beautiful late spring day to clean up Collins Flat Beach on Manly’s harbourside. It is a lovely small beach, well hidden from the hustle and bustle of Manly and part of North Head National Park. It is walk-in only and there are no facilities. It could be paradise, especially as it also boasts a small waterfall and is a nesting area for fairy penguins.
In reality though it is often used for parties and depending on tides and wind rubbish can wash ashore.
When we arrived, it looked pristine. As soon as we got started though, everyone realized that this was just the initial appearance. Colleagues of mine who had never been to a clean-up before were amazed by the amount of little plastic pieces, bottles, cigarette butts and more we found. Some curiosities included a bong, underpants and a single shoe.
After collecting for about an hour, we all got together to go through what we found and count the bits and pieces to submit the data to Tangaroa Blue who coordinate the Australian Marine Debris Database and Clean Up Australia. We counted:
- over 150 cigarette butts (which we sent to Terracycle who convert them into gardening products)
- close to 100 straws and lollipop sticks
- 19 plastic drinking bottles
- 13 glass bottles
- hundreds of plastic and metal lids
- over 200 hard plastic pieces
- over 250 plastic foil pieces
- hundreds of tiny styrofoam pieces
- and much more
Consider this in the middle of a national park, in a fairy penguin habitat, surrounded by bushland. Isn’t this outrageous? I always wonder how people can carry their gear to a beach, but then leave their rubbish when they leave? The next bins are only a few hundred meters away. Animals mistake some of this rubbish for food and swallow it which kills them in the end. The majority of seabirds today has ingested plastic at some point and it is only going to become more if we don’t change our behaviour now.
Avoiding to buy unnecessary packaging is the way to go. It is all about being mindful and aware of what you consume. And recycling is not the answer, it is about avoiding it in the first place.
Why would you want to consume something that is wrapped in a material that will literally last forever? (Some plastics will stay on this planet for several hundred years!
At the same time the big responsibility lies with the companies who produce the products which end up in our waterways and on our beaches. Finding alternatives to single-use plastic and reducing packaging overall is what they need to do as well as take responsibility for their disposal. Even more important is finding ways to reuse and convert rubbish into something that is useful for someone else, aka circular economy.
So get active, look for alternative packaging or no packaging at all, bring your own reusable water bottle to refill as well as a bag for shopping, take your own coffee cup with you, say no to plastic bags and straws, make your own instead of buying, … The list goes on. We are all responsible for the health of this planet, so let’s get active!