Coastal cleaning for a cause

March 13, 2019

Coastal cleaning for a cause

Part of the rubbish pile collected at Onehunga Foreshore last weekend

More than 250 people braved the rain on Saturday to remove 8000 litres of rubbish from the Onehunga Foreshore on the Manukau Harbour.

As part of Seaweek 2019, environmental charity Sustainable Coastlines teamed up with Hirepool NZ and representatives from the Fishing & Adventure television show to encourage people to do their part for our beaches.

Volunteer Erin Lawless said these sorts of events are our duty as humans. “I think a lot of people realise it’s a man-made issue, so it should be our responsibility to clean it back up,” she said.

Linking in to the Seaweek theme of ‘tiakina o tātou mōana - care for our seas,’ the clean-up focused largely on clearing the beach of microplastics.

Counted as anything under 5mm, microplastics are generally the result of larger plastics that have broken down over time. Strategic partnerships director Stephanie Vercoe from Sustainable Coastlines said this is the main issue. “You do a beach clean-up and actually a lot of it [is microplastics] which is the stuff that is beginning to be really dangerous.”

Ms Vercoe said another of the main contributors to the amount of tiny plastics flooding the Onehunga Foreshore are nurdles: the raw form of plastic in the shape of small pellets.

“They get shipped in full containers to factories that then melt them down and mould them into whichever plastic they are producing, then at the end of the day when they are cleaning they just sweep it out and all the nurdles get washed down the drain and into the ocean,” she said.

These “mermaid tears” as they are often referred to are then mistaken for food by marine animals such as turtles or seabirds, who can die after eating them.

Although it was easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of rubbish, the general mood among workers such as Shawn Tierney was one of optimism. “It feels like it’s just a drop in the ocean and it might be, but they all add up,” Ms Tierney said.

Both Ms Vercoe and Ms Tierney hoped people who had taken part would go away and change their habits.

“The main thing that we do is we want to just start people out on their journey right? You can’t look at all this and think you can solve it all,” said Ms Vercoe.

Ms Tierney said it is as simple as choosing a few items found at the clean-up and deciding not to use them one week.

“It is a journey. It happens in steps. Maybe after today you think I am not buying beverages in disposable single use containers… and next time it’s the soy sauce packets or the straws or committing to not getting takeaways in polystyrene.”

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