Taking action can be comforting, so when Cyclone Seth recently dumped a monumental load of rubbish on K’gari (Fraser Island), we raced to help with an emergency beach clean-up before the high tides had a chance to pull it all back out to sea.
In a joint effort between the crew from Ocean Crusaders, local tour guides from K'gari Adventures, and some vollies from Zero Co, the mission was a mega success with over 2,000 kg of plastic waste collected in just three days. That's the equivalent of over 111,000 water bottles worth of rubbish!
"It was a great weekend, really getting our hands dirty. To connect with our mission, which is untrashing the planet, was really inspirational." – Margs W, Zero Co.
Famous for its crystal-clear water, pristine ecosystems, and native wildlife, K'gari also happens to be smack bang in the middle of a catchment area for ocean pollution, which is constantly building up along its 125km long coastline.
The world's largest sand island, K'gari's growing problem has put the World Heritage listed destination at risk of suffering permanent environmental damage, with big chunks of plastic pollution breaking down into microplastics, which are currently impossible to remove from beaches.
"It's been very difficult to see plastics from around the world hit shores and coastlines that are quite remote and quite untouched," says Pacha Light, surfer and environmentalist, who also rocked up and donated her time to help. "It's like seeing the tip of the iceberg of how much plastic there really is in the ocean. And it's a difficult position, because you can easily take that guilt off yourself by saying 'Oh, this plastic is from another country' but when you really take a look at it, it's a mixture of trash from our own country and from around the world."
Hana Robinson from K’gari Adventures, who's done countless clean-ups, confirmed that although a lot of the rubbish that washes up is from Australian consumers, around 20 per cent finds its way here from other countries or has been dumped by boats.
Sadly, none of this is a surprise to our main man, Mike. He's always banging on about how plastic pollution is a global environmental problem that requires local solutions and that's why it's Zero Co’s mission to clean up the rubbish junking our oceans and stopping the production of new single-use plastic, which ends up in landfill.
"Alongside our regular ocean clean-ups, we hope responding to moments like these creates some noise around the real-time impacts of climate change, the lengthy life cycle of plastic and what it looks like once Mother Nature spits it back out" – Mike, Zero Co
Walking the beaches of K'gari and collecting all manner of rubbish, from medical waste to commercial fishing nets, it's evident the global throwaway culture is alive and well. Recent numbers reported that during the pandemic alone, an estimated 25.9 million kg of plastic has ended up in our oceans around the planet (More on the impacts of this in this post).
"Plastic pollution that we find here on the beach today is your problem," explains Hana. "If we kill our oceans, we cannot live on this planet. The ecosystem in the ocean is crucial for the existence of human beings. The water is making 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe. If we kill off part of the food chain, then we will disturb the balance and we can be in danger here on land."
Enough doom and gloom though, what's the solution? In an effort to make more Australians aware of the changing climate, its effect on the land, and the impact of our plastic consumption, we're continuing our work with K’gari Adventures and Ocean Crusaders by offering a three-night Eco Warrior Experience on the island.
This special package offers good eggs the opportunity to explore the island while helping conserve its natural beauty and learn about local indigenous culture. The rubbish collected from these tours – as well as the recent emergency clean-up – goes toward making our Zero Co Forever Bottles (which come in our Starter Kit available here).
They're small steps, we know, but big problems don’t always need big solutions. In reality, heaps of challenges can be solved by one small change, made by lots of people.
"We're all humans, we all consume a lot," says Pacha. "I think it's about shifting it to more of a collective responsibility. Educating yourself and your neighbours, so they can educate their neighbours and you can create that ripple effect."