Divers, diggers, sorters and snorkelers.
It takes a team effort to clean up the world.
And that’s exactly how it happened last weekend down at North Gong beach - and across the globe - for World Clean Up Day. Over 200 people from the Illawarra community spent their Saturday morning helping make Wollongong’s public spaces even more beautiful, by participating in the largest global clean up, ever.
The day started earlier for some, who joined the Peloton Against Plastic crew in riding from Sandon Point in Bulli to make it to North Gong for the start of the clean up.
It was an absolutely perfect day to be down on the sand, in the park, and for some serious sea-saviours, deep down in the harbour! The legends at JCI Illawarra and JCI Australia did an awesome job of rallying the eco-troops to cover as much ground as possible.
The team from Intrepid Landcare took a massive group of volunteers out to clean up all around Stuart Park. Surfrider Foundation were joined by the Wollongong Free Divers who braved the chilly water to tidy up Belmore Basin.
Green Connect and their team handled the mess around Puckey’s Lagoon, before starting the massive task of sorting all of the rubbish. And the team at Plastic Free Wollongong got down on their hands and knees, to pick out as much micro-plastic along the high tide line as possible.
As part of the day, Plastic Free Wollongong hosted a demonstration of AUSMAP, The Australian Microplastic Assessment Project. This project aims to create a database of widespread, accurate, citizen-collected information about the presence of microplastics along Australia's shorelines, in order to further educate communities and find solutions to this issue. For more information on AUSMAP click here - if you are interested in taking part we will be bringing the AUSMAP initiative down to Wollongong over the coming months where you can get your citizen science on!! - take the pledge and sign up to our newsletter for more info!!
A microplastic is considered any piece of plastic less than 5 millimetres in diameter.
That means they're pretty good at hiding deep down in the sand, so it takes some serious patience to pan them out.
In just over an hour, an astounding 246 kilograms of waste were removed from Wollongong’s waterways, parks and coastline. What an amazing effort!
There were a few key items that were found in large quantaties;
Straws - 117
Plastic bottles - 173
Bottle tops and lids - 139
Coffee and plastic cups - 192
No surprises here that these were all single-use plastic items. What was surprising however, were the number of cigarette butts found. A whopping 4950 butts were picked up (and counted). Insane!
There were heaps of weird and wacky items scattered around which don't fit the criteria of your typical beachside trash. Three tyres, an electric fan, a bird cage and a compressor were all pulled from below the water, or along its edge. It’s crazy the things you find once you open your eyes a little wider (and underwater).
On a global scale, World Clean Up Day was a MASSIVE success. 12.7 million people were involved across 144 countries, and the numbers are still rolling in.
A massive shout out and round of applause is needed to thank Plastic Free Wollongong’s major sponsor of the day, Lotus Health and Wellbeing. The team at Lotus are committed to sustainable consumption and contributing to the local community. Not only did they come down and lend a massive hand with the clean up, but their generous sponsorship will go towards providing local primary schools with engaging educational material about plastic waste. What a bunch of champions!
If you’re keen to help Plastic Free Wollongong with campaigns in the future, or to support any of the awesome NGO’s that came together on World Clean Up Day, it’s not too late to donate or sponsor at one or more of the Chuffed fundraiser pages.
Cheers again to everyone that came down to lend a hand. Here at Plastic Free Wollongong, we feel privileged to be a part of a community that is so committed to keeping our gorgeous city spotless. We love your enthusiasm, your dedication and the smiles that never fade, even when you're elbow deep in trash. We love the Gong!
Photos supplied by Tad Souden, Stella Crick and Mitchell Scanlan-Bloor.