Keeping our oceans plastic free

BINNING a couple of pieces of rubbish every time you visit a waterway or are outside may seem like a minor act but to a group of ocean advocates it can help make a world of difference.

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Environmentalist and Take 3 co-founder Tim Silverwood and his friend, Adrian Midwood of Ocean Ambassadors took part in a mammoth east coast sailing journey of coastal communities from Brisbane to Sydney between January 7 to February 3 to raise awareness about the affects of plastic pollution.

The ocean-minded pair stopped into Forster NSW on Friday (January 24) along with Newcastle yachtsmen Ivan MacFadyen.

Mr MacFadyen’s story attracted international attention when he told The Newcastle Herald of his horrific discovery of a severe absence of marine life and large islands of floating rubbish out to sea during his yacht race between Melbourne and Osaka last year.

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After learning about the project, Mr McFadyen and his wife Kari joined Tim and Adrian on their vessel, the S.V Moana in Coffs Harbour on Friday January 17.

When I read Mr McFadyen’s story I personally couldn’t help but be affected by the words on the page. His haunting description of a desolate ocean with no marine life painted a grim reality of what is sadly mankind’s destructiveness.

When Adrian told me Ivan was on the journey with them I couldn’t believe I had the opportunity to speak with him. There were so many questions running through my head.

Despite his article attracting millions of page views, Ivan remains a humble person and is still evidently passionate about the state of the oceans.

There was a lot I wanted to pick his brain about but the real things I wanted to ask him was: so you’ve done this trip and witnessed this, but what now? what are you going to do?

Ivan simply said that if we remain idle about the situation it will only get worse. He plans to help two Australian organisations out who he believes are doing a great job.

“It’s (project) a great start. It might seem insignificant to some but we can only hope that it grows,” Mr Macfadyen said.

“I truly believe I’ve seen into the future and I’ll tell you, it’s bloody grim.

“I don’t want to be negative but I can foretell that if we don’t make change our whole planet will end up that way.

“Because of the article, I got contacted by every environmental organisation in the world who wanted me to get on board with them and the help.

“I couldn’t physically support all of them so I decided to join a few ocean groups because the ocean is a big part of my life.

“I believe what Take 3 are all about so i joined them as well as the NSW Conservation Council because they protect marine sanctuaries.”

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I also had the opportunity to speak with Ivan’s wife Kari who explained that she wasn’t always an environmentally engaged person but had become so inclined because of her husband’s influence and his recent trip.

“I was just every joe blow who would throw a ciggarette butt out but now I think ‘Oh my god I’m contributing to all of this’,” Kari explains of the rubbish she picked up during the stopover in Forster.

“I must admit I’ve become a lot more conscious now especially after Ivan’s trip. We helped out a lot with the guys when we stopped in Port Macquarie. I couldn’t believe the amount of rubbish there. It was disappointing.

“Now, when I see little bits of plastic around I am quick to pick them up because it’s the little bits that are obviously inviting for fish and birds.

“That’s where we really need to see the big picture.”

Mr Midwood said the tour was about making people aware of the negative effects of plastic pollution towards our oceans and wildlife and what can happen if we don’t reduce it.

“It is one of the largest problems around at the moment,” he said.

“Our focus is not to make people think the sky is falling were not trying to be negative about it but we can make a conscious choice to fix it.

“If people support products that work with organisations to clean our beaches up it can change the way things are.

“The labels on products a lot of the time are confusing but people need to realise what they are buying and should look to see what organisations are doing the hard work.”

Mr Silverwood believes that if the South Australia container deposit scheme was rolled out across the country it would dramatically change people’s actions.

“I’m very supportive of changes to legislation. We need to introduce a bottle and can refund system like South Australia, everywhere,” he said.

“We need to recognise that if we incentivize people to do the right thing it can work.”

A large group of locals and visitors took part in an hour long clean-up around Tuncurry beach on Friday January 24. People scoured around the rock wall, beach and dunes.DSC_0669

The clean-up resulted in the collection of more than 400 cigarette butts, 45 plastic bottles, more than 100 glass bottles, 50 aluminium cans and over 60 plastic bags.

Groups also collected several amounts of fishing line, bait bags and 45 pieces of disposable cutlery and plastic straws that were mainly found strewn across the rock wall and on the beach. Mr Silverwood said the rubbish collected weighed in at approximately 70kg.

As part of the tour, Mr Midwood also promoted an innovative Japanese technology which converts plastics into oil and was used to fuel their sailing vessel for the trip.

What you can do to help

Three things we shouldn’t be using in order to help the environment:

1. Single-use plastic bags – take reusable bags to the shops instead.

2. Single-use PET plastic bottles – stainless-steel and corn-plastic water bottles are available.

3. Products packaged with polystyrene and styrofoam – there is no viable way to deal with these plastics once they are thrown away.

If you have never read this it will quite possibly change the way you think about oceans and pollution: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1848433/the-ocean-is-broken

The next time you’re at the beach why not take three pieces of rubbish with you. You may think it is a minor act but it all helps in the long run.

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