DRIZZLY weather did not dampen the spirits of hundreds of volunteers yesterday who participated in CleanUp Australia Day activities throughout the region.
Cigarette butts, plastic food and drink packaging were just some of the common types of rubbish picked up at various locations within the Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama areas.
The Black Diamond 4WD Club removed dumped cars from the wetlands around Lake Illawarra while the Neighbourhood Forum 7 and Hooka Creek Bushcare group worked on cleaning up a weed-infested mound near Berkeley's Fred Finch Park.
Surfrider Southcoast members met at Stuart Park for a clean-up of Puckeys Lagoon and the surrounding beach, parkland and dunes.
Branch president Susie Crick said their activities focused on the land and water environment within Fairy Creek, with some volunteers donning wetsuits and reef boots.
"In the first 90 minutes of the clean-up, we had easily picked up about 3000 cigarette butts, around 500 bottles, party supplies and nappies," she said.
"There was all sorts of rubbish which just doesn't break down. The plastics take hundreds of years to break down and the sea life eat it. We had bags and bags of it after just a short time of cleaning up."
Ms Crick said the volume of rubbish was concerning considering the number of garbage bins Wollongong City Council had erected in the park.
"There are garbage bins here every 50 metres and people would rather dump their party cups and plates in the vegetation or in the water," she said. "It's up to the public to start using the garbage bins."
Ms Crick said the organisation was raising awareness about the long-term damage plastic materials posed to the environment through its current campaign Rise Above Plastics.
Across Australia more than half a million volunteers cleaned up 7000 sites.