Clean Up Australia Day today, an annual event where volunteers across Australia get together and collect the rubbish and debris washed up, dumped, dropped and blown into local environments. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day started in 1989, from an idea by Ian Kiernan and Clean Up co-founder Kim McKay. Receiving widespread support, the following year Clean Up Australia Day was born.
I headed to Wellington Point this morning to join locals in the Clean Up of beaches and shoreline around the popular recreational area. The most common item I picked up was cigarette butts from the sand, yuk!.... closely followed by plastic bags and wrappers from lollies, bait bags and icy poles. There were a few of the ubiquitous thongs, sun hats, drink bottles and cans too. Then the load pictured above was found. I suspect this area, below mangroves, is a natural pooling area for debris, moved by winds and tide. With two large bags filled, I'd only cleared about a sixth of the pile. Fortunately many more volunteers were on site getting stuck into the clean up.
This is the first year I've volunteered. I have to say the idea of collecting rubbish like this has never appealed to me, simply because I know there will be another load on the beach again next month. I'm left wondering if it's possible to get beyond littering. In a throw-away society, who does the picking up and can we really move towards sustainability without changing our habits of waste generation and management?
On the recent trip to Tasmania, we were hiking at Freycinet National Park. Starting the walk with a climb up to Wineglass Bay Lookout. On our way, about 200metres from the starting carpark we passed a National Parks worker. I stopped to have a chat about the rubbish he was picking up along the trail. He told me the bag would be full by the time he reached the lookout. Apart from spoiling the look of this beautiful environment, it seemed to me a complete waste of National Parks resources for staff to have to collect rubbish.
What do you think, Can we get beyond litter?