Where does your plastic go?

September 06, 2017

Where does your plastic go?

We have just returned from a complete eye-opening adventure, where 10 ocean conservationists joined the Trash Tribe hosted by our friends from environmental organisation Clean Coast Collective and partner organisation Tangaroa Blue.

What is your paradise? Coconut trees and beautiful white sand, surrounded by beautiful blue waters?
That's what we envision when we dream of paradise. 
Well, were just there. Except the beautiful white sand was choking on plastic.

The idyllic tropical paradise Chilli Beach is a hot spot for your rubbish, completely buried in plastic items of all sorts that have washed ashore from not only Australian consumers, but from countries from every corner of the earth. 

Along the 6.7km stretch of beach lays a whole lot of plastic items barely used once, fishing nets and rope, thongs lost from beach walkers from around the world, and literally millions of plastic fragments from hard plastic products that have broken up and can’t be identified anymore.

It took us two days to travel along red dust roads untill we arrived in the remote Cape York Peninsular in far north Australia. We then spent the next 5 days physically removing a total of 7,001 tonnes of plastic pollution and waste from the coastline. How insane is that? That is literally over 1 tonne of waste per kilometer.
We were completely remote, with no showers, reception or comforts of home, only surrounded by 10 like minded strangers who became family in just a matter of days. 

We spent our days walking the 6.7km coastline with our heads down and booties up and our nights reflecting on the day's findings as the wind howled through our tents.
Our passion was our purpose, and we bonded closely together with one goal in mind.
We picked up as much debris as possible and hauled metres of rope and fishing nets onto the back of trucks, in the hopes of not only saving marine life, but also avoiding the toxic waste entering our fish food chain, of which it already has.

It was completely overwhelming to see the layer of waste just sitting on the sand, and we were alarmed at how much waste was plastic remnants!
Plastic remnants are recorded from plastic items that have broken up into smaller pieces. We filled a crazy 831 bags and some items recorded were 1,009 cigarette lighters, 2,279 plastic toothbrushes, 3,325 plastic drink bottles and 3,204 plastic bleach bottles, and too many plastic lids and children’s toys, all of which has washed ashore since last year’s annual clean up.

What was alarming to find was the amount of plastic caps collected without the bottle itself. Plastic bottle caps are made from a more durable type of plastic to the bottle and take a little longer to break up than the actual plastic bottle itself, which breaks up faster into smaller fragments.  

The amount of plastic bottle caps found are an example of how many bottles have broken up in the ocean. When any type of plastic breaks up into smaller pieces, fish often mistaken this for their food source Zooplankton and eat it; and we eat fish, therefore entering our food chain.

A recent study showed that if you are a fish eater you are eating 11,000 pieces of plastic particles per year– this will only increase as we continue to use more plastic.

Each individual item collected from the clean-up was counted and recorded to input into The Australia Marine Debris Database which allows Tangaroa Blue to determine where the debris has originated from. Tangaroa blue can then drive change and collaborate with Australian Federal Agencies in an attempt to stop plastic pollution at the source.  

After 5 days of blood (I'm looking at you G <accidental stab wound>), sweat, tears and laughs, it was rewarding to see the numbers of which items were most prominent; and with little surprise single-use plastics were the highest. 
Every piece of plastic ever created still exists in some form today, and 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in our oceans every year; again entering our food chain.

How can you help? Over one billion plastic coffee cups are used annually in Australia; grab yourself a re-usable Keep Cup! You can also pick yourself up a re-usable straw from Clean Coast Collective .

Did you know that Australian's use 118,000 tonnes of plastic bottles annually and one plastic bottle can break up into 10,000 individual microplastic pieces? Swap your plastic bottle for a re-usable water bottle. We will be releasing an OceanZen water bottle in November!

You can also read our 8 Tips You can Do To Help Save Our Ocean blog post for some more inspiration for your plastic-free journey!

Big thanks to the Clean Coast Collective for driving change for our ocean and bringing together the Trash Tribe team.


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