Organisers of Saturday’s The Hirepool Big Clean were shocked to learn volunteers collected over one and a half tonnes of rubbish in just two hours – on a foreshore so littered, plants were growing with their roots tangled in microplastics.
The massive rubbish haul was approximately 9.2cubic metres, 1700 kilograms or just over 100,000 individual pieces of rubbish – the equivalent of 184 fifty-litre coal sacks.
It included a printer, two car tyres and even a television. But it is the microplastics which really have organisers concerned, as this is one of the biggest threats to our waterways and a major problem worldwide.
The weight of the collection was confirmed today by Sustainable Coastlines, co-organisers of The Hirepool Big Clean alongside popular TV show Fishing & Adventure and Hirepool. The event was organised as part of National SeaWeek.
Volunteers and The Hirepool Big Clean organisers were horrified to find the beach littered with microplastic.
“It’s a real concern,”says Fletcher Sunde from Sustainable Coastlines. “Firstly that we are seeing so many items of household rubbish – but also the very real problem of microplastics and their effect on our environment and waterways.”
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic debris – less than five millimetres long – that are either contained within consumer products such as health and beauty products, or are bigger plastics broken down into small pieces. These bits of plastic won’t break down any smaller so, due to their size, they are ingested by our aquatic life.
Scott Parry, one of the presenters from popular TV show Fishing & Adventure says they’re seeing the problem of microplastics firsthand.
“With being on the water so often, we are even seeing microplastic appearing in the bellies of fish,” says Parry. “It’s truly frightening, because it’s essentially entering our food system.”
With a number of volunteers at The Hirepool Big Clean being school children from the local area, they were able to see firsthand the amount of plastics and food wrappers collected that came straight from lunchboxes.
“We have footage that shows a massive amount of plastic straws, lollipop sticks, chip packets and pieces of balloon,” says Sunde. “We need to keep getting the message out there that people need to make changes, like avoiding buying items in small single use plastic wrappers.”
The massive pile is the largest haul of rubbish ever collected from the Onehunga foreshore, which has been identified as one of Auckland’s most polluted beaches.
Over the past 3 years, over 12 cubic metres of rubbish have been removed from this particular coastline area in eight different clean up events – the equivalent of 120 standard size moving boxes. But organisers say this is by far the most microplastic they have seen collected in the area.
Over 225 people took part in The Hirepool Big Clean.
“Many of our Hirepool customers are into their fishing and recreational sports,” says Shaun Owen, Hirepool Marketing Manager. “That’s why we wanted to get involved and play our part in rehabilitating our shores.
“And when you see what was collected, it really helps put into perspective how important these beach cleans are.”