Celebrating Local Litter Legends: Community Efforts to Keep Our Coast Clean

As a coastal community, the issue of litter poses significant challenges, affecting both our environment and economy.

Litter not only tarnishes the natural beauty of our surroundings, but also finds its way into our waterways, creating a serious threat for wildlife and significant cost to clean up. In fact, a 2016  study estimated that in NSW alone, between $167 million to $198 million is spent annually on litter cleanup (NSW EPA, pg. 5).

What is litter?
“Litter is anything unwanted that has been thrown away, blown away or left in the wrong place.”

Moreover, the prevalence of plastic waste along the Australian coast, which accounts for around three-quarters of litter found (CSIRO), presents a grave danger to marine life and ecosystems. Plastic pollution can block waterways, clog sewers, contaminate the food chain with microplastics and is even ingested by some marine animals. Cigarette butts also represent a substantial litter problem, with approximately 7 billion of the 24 billion filtered cigarettes sold every year in Australia ending up as litter (Keep Australia Beautiful, WA).

Ensuring effective litter prevention strategies is crucial in altering these statistics, with efforts and resources persisting across local, state and national levels (refer to the NSW Litter Prevention Strategy 2022 – 2023 for further information). In the interim, community cleanups play a vital role in reducing litter that otherwise finds its way into our waterways, safeguarding our natural environment from harm.

In March this year, we celebrated over 30 community groups who stepped up to clean up as a part of Clean Up Australia Day 2023. Today, we shine the spotlight on two local groups, whose recent efforts deserve our gratitude and celebration as local litter legends.

Hastings Enviro Clean Up Day
Hastings Enviro volunteers, along with the litter collected across the morning's clean up.

Hastings Enviro Rotary (a Satellite Club of Port Macquarie Sunrise Rotary) held a clean-up in the Settlement City precinct on Sunday 23 July 2023, collecting around 200kg of waste from public areas in the precinct. Co-ordinator for the cleanup, Malcolm McNeil said, “whilst it is disappointing there is so much waste littering what is a relatively small area, I am pleased with the result in terms of how much of an improvement was achieved in the presentation of the area and the fact that this waste. particularly plastic waste, was prevented from entering our waterways and causing distress and death to our wildlife”.

A small portion of the waste was able to be recycled, but unfortunately a much larger part was too damaged or contaminated to remain recyclable and had to be sent to landfill along with the rest of the non-recyclable waste collected.

Mr McNeil said, “It would be great to engender a higher level of civic pride within the community. It is just another little thing that could make a big difference”.

Chairman of Hastings Enviro, Jake Wadsworth said the cleanup was an early activity in the life of Hastings Enviro Rotary, as it plans more extensive projects with an environmental focus in the Hastings area.

You can also find the Hastings Enviro group at the Sunrise Campus Markets on 1st Sunday of every month, with their ‘Targeting Zero Waste to Landfill’ stall, collecting the tricky-to-recycle items that can’t go in your yellow bin, for redirection to specialised facilities for re-use, repair, composting or recycling.

Access Community Education Services (ACES) Envirogang

If you haven’t already met members of the ACES Envirogang out and about in our community with their Hi-Vis and litter-collecting equipment in hand, you may have heard of them recently, as local recipients of our Environmental Citizen of the Year Australia Day awards, and the Runner Up of the same category in the NSW 2023 awards.

Formed in 2009 by Access Community Education Services (ACES), Envirogang removes barriers for people living with disability so they can be involved in community volunteering. Envirogang conducts weekly litter reduction programs, preventing rubbish from entering waterways and keeping public spaces clean. This wonderful program has fostered new friendships while giving people living with disability a way to look after the environment. As recipients of the Environmental Citizen of the Year Australia Day Award, Envirogang will receive $1,000 to help fund their important work.

These inspiring community groups serve as shining examples of how collective action can lead to positive change and a cleaner, greener community.

As we move forward, it is essential for each member of the community to play their part in minimising litter and promoting responsible waste disposal practices. By working together, we can create a cleaner and more sustainable environment for ourselves and future generations. Let us continue to support and celebrate the efforts of these local litter legends and continue to embrace our collective responsibility in safeguarding our precious coastal environment.

Meet our Little Litter Legends!

Watch Episode 3 of our Little Legends Passport Adventure series, where our young eco-warriors  transform into Litter Legends to clean up one of our favourite local playgrounds, and meet up today’s Knowledge Wizard, Mark, to learn what happens when rubbish falls down into our drains.

Watch the full series and grab free downloadable activity books via our ConnectEd Kids hub.

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