Hundreds of cigarette butts, straws, plastic bottles and polystyrene foam beads were collected from Thirroul Beach on Sunday in an attempt to clean up Illawarra’s oceans.
Volunteers and representatives from environmental organisations came together to clean up rubbish and raise awareness about the need to keep beaches waste-free across Australia.
Surfrider Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the oceans, organised the Beat the Bottle event.
Foundation president for the South Coast branch Susie Crick said Wollongong residents and all Australians needed to break their dependence with single-use plastic.
“There are more micro-plastics and soft plastics entering the ocean,” she said. “Marine life eat that plastic and then it ends up in humans when we eat the fish.
“The foundation want to educate people about refusing single-use plastic, which is plastic that is used for five minutes then discarded such as water bottles. People can bring their own reusable bottles instead.
“People should also be saying no to disposable food and beverage containers, to straws and to polystyrene foam.
“The state now has a bottle container deposit scheme where people can return their bottles and receive 10 cents. Waste now has a value. It is sad to find items like those still on the beach.”
Children and volunteers were entertained by Junkyard Beats, who use discarded rubbish to create drums, while litter was picked up.
Ms Crick said it was important for families who visited Illawarra beaches over summer to leave only footprints and take their rubbish with them.
She was happy to see many children helping pick up rubbish and use a sieve to find tiny plastics during the clean up.
“We have to stop the cycle,” she said. “Kids are the future and we need to fight for a cleaner future so they can still enjoy the beach. They should be finding shells not plastic.”
Wombarra resident Pru Rowe said she and her children wanted to help clean up the ocean and beach.
“It is important for kids to learn from a young age that our beaches need to be clean,” she said.
“There are so many tiny plastic pieces that fish eat. People see the big plastic bags and don’t like it but the tiny plastics are just as bad.”
Surfrider Foundation team up with Parkey, an international organisation fighting for cleaner oceans.
“Pollution in the ocean is a global problem,” Ms Crick said. “All the smaller organisation trying to make a difference need to join together get the message out there loud and clear – we need to stop rubbish from entering our oceans.”
The Beat the Bottle Summer Series kicked off at Black Beach in Kiama on Saturday. There volunteers collected more than 300 cigarettes, 34 bottle caps, more than two kilograms of fishing debris, three kilograms of hard plastic, two kilograms of soft plastic, a dozen straws, two kilograms of broken glass and one kilogram of paper.
Sydney Water sponsored the event by providing $2000 grants to 14 organisations to run the clean up event over summer.