We cram in our vehicles and drive two days to Cape York, a large remote peninsula in far North Queensland. The beaches are breathtaking and the water is crisp, but taking a closer look, the issue became clear; the largest unspoiled wilderness area in northern Australia is littered with plastic. Soon, that’s all you can see.
“Every direction you looked there was rubbish of every kind scattered…every piece of rubbish picked up revealed another. It was easy to spend 30-45 minutes sitting in the same spot, meticulously picking everything around you.” – Sam D.
Days were long but stoke was high. After a quick cup of coffee and group debrief, we take to the beach, splitting up into groups of “collectors” and “sorters”. With the help of our partner organisation, Tangaroa Blue, we begin collecting data on what types of plastics we are finding on this remote beach.
The final day of our trip, a storm hits Chilli Beach, bringing with it a large wave of new plastic littering our freshly cleaned beach. Whether brought by the ocean or hidden under the sand that got washed away with the tide, hearts are heavy as we realise the 3.6 tonnes of rubbish we had removed from the beach, was only a temporary fix. This storm is a harsh reality check, but only further fuels our desire to one day rid the ocean of plastic pollution.
“I think the largest impact the trip had on me was just how far ocean debris can travel before landing on the Australian coast. We were able to identify which country certain plastic bottles came from by the labels and markings still visible on the side. Some of the bottles and rubbish had come as far as Fiji and Indonesia…it highlights that ocean pollution is a world problem and not just about changing our own habits but for the world population to also look at re-education of what consumables we use and how we dispose of them.” – Sean W.
We all came from diverse backgrounds, carrying our own frustrations regarding plastic pollution, and sharing a deeply rooted appreciation for nature. Although, recruiting like-minded individuals is the easy part. The real question is, how about those who have never had access to nature? How do we instill a love for and desire to protect the places that fail to hold significance for many individuals?
“It is definitely hard to explain to people…people are interested but they can’t really understand unless they’ve seen it. Also, all my friends here in Asia live in massive mega-cities where they have never seen a national park or a uncrowded beach, so it’s hard for them to understand the intrinsic value of and love for the environment… I think I will need to concentrate…on not getting bogged down by the scale of the problem and giving up, but staying motivated to inspire change in all factions of society.” – Ciara G.
Speaking with our Trash Tribe post-trip, the final message is clear: we can’t just do cleanups and expect change. All the plastic and rubbish we pick up today will simply be replaced by more tomorrow. Change has to come from the source. So don’t get discouraged! Focus on the small changes you can make, educate those around you who are willing to learn, take more people outside and allow them to fall in love with the places you want to protect. It’ll take time, but don’t worry, we’re already on our way to the #cleancoastlife.
Total Weight: 3,646 Kilos
Plastic fragments: 57,185
Bottle lids: 12,763
Rubber thongs: 614
Plastic bottles: 1,965
Rope & Nets: 1,486
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Huge thank you to Patagonia Byron Bay for funding this years exhibition through their Environmental Grants Program!