Dec. 23, 2014

Will you pick up today?

There's nothing like summer holidays to bring on some loving, but picking up is not always easy. And we often miss the mark when it comes to picking up (litter, that is) in the great outdoors. 

Perhaps not the most romantic one-liner, but a staggering 95% of litter on our beaches comes from the stormwater system; pollution and discarded debris collected via our drains from parks and streets. It's this mess plus other forgotten and dumped rubbish that winds up in the sea, with some ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  

The world's biggest rubbish tip, this Garbage Patch floats a little way north of Australia, in the ocean between Hawaii and California.  Notoriously vast, it contains millions of tonnes of trash, most of which is plastic. No joke. 

In fact, there's an estimated 200 million bits of plastic littering our oceans. Some are visible and others, like microplastics, are not.  Unable to distinguish between these nasties and food, many marine animals are choked to death or live long enough to contaminate the food chain (potentially winding up in our tummies).  Litter in our oceans is also hurting tourism and fishing industries.  And these plastics spread invasive species by attaching in one region and drifting long distances to cause havoc in other ecosystems. 

Plus it's downright ugly. I wouldn't wish to be a sea turtle these days, would you? 

Even if you don't give a toss about turtles, spare a loving thought for the state of our local beaches. 

So, while you're out and about enjoying the sunshine (and each other), do your bit by 'picking up' with success today using these seven tips:

  1. Take it with you - Get into the community spirit and grab a piece of litter each time you leave the beach or park, even if it's not yours. 

  2. Pack away the plastic - When you are living (or loving) it up in the great outdoors, leave the plastic bags behind at home to avoid them blowing away into drains or the ocean. Reuse them or  take them to local supermarkets for recycling.  Otherwise throw them out in the red bin. They can't be recycled and screw up the recycling machinery. 

  3. Bin your butts - Smoking is banned on the beaches but if you smoke nearby, throw your butts in the special butt bins at the beach ramps or take them with you after your picnics. It's estimated that seven billion butts end up as litter in Australia each year.   

  4. Bag your litter - Take a small re-usable rubbish bag with you to the beach or park, to avoid it blowing away or being buried in the sand and to make it easier to transport trash back to the bin.   

  5. Drink up - Take a reusable water bottle with you and use Council's water fountains to refill rather than plastic bottles which end up as waste. Using reusable coffee cups also means less disposable coffee cups in our landfill. 

  6. Recycle it - Use the yellow public recycling bins to recycle what you can.  These bins take plastic, glass, paper and cardboard products. Styrofoam and dirty food wrappers are for the red bin.   

  7. Get rid of larger items - For large household rubbish and unwanted items that don't fit in the bins, you can also organise a free Council 'pick up'. It's super easy - call Waverley Council on 9369 8080. Dumping this stuff on the street is illegal and incurs hefty fines. 

More info 

Great Pacific garbage patch -http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/great-pacific-garbage-patch.htm

 Waste and recycling in Waverley LGA - www.waverley.nsw.gov.au/residents/waste_and_recycling

 Waste and recycling in Randwick LGA - www.randwick.nsw.gov.au/services/rubbish-and-recycling/

 Waste and recycling in Woollahra LGA - www.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/services/rubbish_and_recycling

By Nicola Saltman, first published in The Beast Magazine

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