About a dozen high school students swapped books and pens for garbage bags and pickers on Friday morning ahead of Clean Up Australia Day.
Two community environmental groups, Two Week Red Bin Challenge and Oceans in Focus, organised for students from St Joseph's Catholic High School, Warilla High School and Oak Flats High School to participate in a clean up excursion at Little Lake.
St Joseph's student Jasmine Kaschubs, who runs the bin challenge group with her mother Kellie, helped organise the event.
"It is important for young people to know where their rubbish ends up if they don't put it into the bin," she said.
"Rubbish doesn't always go into landfill and can end up in the ocean where fish have to live with our litter.
"Most of the students were surprised with how much rubbish there was near the lake and in the rocks.
"We collected seven bags worth of rubbish and the most common items were cigarette butts, glass, beer caps, soft plastics like chip packets and water bottles as well as lots of small unrecognisable pieces of plastic."
Mrs Kaschubs said she was able to provide gloves, bags and pickers to 60 Year 6 students from Shellharbour Public School who walked along the main street of Shellharbour village picking up rubbish. She said four bags were collected in about an hour.
Jasmine encouraged residents to go to a Clean Up Australia Day event on Sunday and reminded people to dispose of their rubbish correctly every day.
"Rather than just picking up rubbish for one day, pick it up every time you go to the beach," she said.
Mrs Kaschubs said it was the first time the Bin Challenge group had organised an excursion and hoped to grow the initiative next year by getting more students and schools involved.