Plogging is getting a lot of traction at the moment! A simple concept out of Sweden is becoming a worldwide viral rubbish cleanup movement: working out and picking up! Pull on the workout gear, grab a plog bag and get out there.
On the job, most days are spent marvelling at our incredible environment, but there have been a few exceptions. Whilst paddling, I have come across a dead turtle covered in red algae, floating near Fairlight. It had apparently ingested a plastic bag, been unable to dive, and died a slow death on the surface. Another heart wrenching case was a lifeless Cormorant in the 40 Baskets pool. He had obviously dived into a plastic bag and been unable to reverse out of it, drowning. I have also observed far too many birds with fishing line dangling from their feet, which tightens until blood flow stops and the foot becomes swollen and useless….
But how is this carnage happening? Why is there so much litter on our beautiful beaches and waterways when we know it is strangling our oceans and will eventually kill us too? We know better right? The stats tell us who is to blame:
Young people are more likely to litter when they are in a group. As the group dwindles leaving their litter, the last person is left “holding the baby” (just look at Manly after a sunny Sunday afternoon)
Older people are more likely to litter when alone.
Men litter more than women. Women use bins more than men (oh really?)
In a group of ten people in a public place, three will litter and seven will do the right thing.
More smokers will litter their butts than use a bin.
People are more likely to litter in an already littered or unkempt location.
My own additions to this list are:
Fishermen: so many bait bags, hooks, floats, fishing line always washing up or floating. Come on guys, you clearly love fish, you love the ocean, what are you thinking of??
Maccers eaters: self explanatory
Ironically, people often go to a bit of effort with their littering. Melbourne based social psychologists Community Change came up with the following strategies:
Wedging - Stuffing pieces of litter into gaps, such as between seats
Grinding - Smokers who grind their cigarettes into the ground.
Inching - Litter is left behind as the culprit slowly moves away from it.
Undertaking - Litter is buried, often under beach sand.
Foul Shooting - Litter is thrown at but misses the bin - the person walks away.
Clean Sweeping - Litter left behind by others on the table gets swept onto the ground.
Flagrant Flinging - Without any apparent concern, litter is through into the air or simply dropped.
90%ing / Dual Depositing - Most rubbish is put into a bin, but some is left behind.
So we know who does it and how they do it, but it appears that littering is so endemic, so sneaky, so planned, so wilful, so under rated, that no amount of education is making an impact. Rangers have the power to issue on-the-spot fines but in reality enforcing is almost impossible. Other suggested tactics are shaming, persuading, dobbing, paying rubbish collectors (in Hong Kong, I saw little old ladies bent over with osteoporosis picking up the beach garbage), recycling machines, but all seem pathetic really.
And mostly the cleanup task just seems too huge. How can an individual make any kind of impact when the beach is a rubbish tip and there is a sea of micro plastics?
On a less dismal note, I have recently spotted several beautiful turtles in our North Harbour Bay. Their square heads pop up in front of the kayak and they surface just long enough to make eye contact. They are one of the only creatures in the ocean that make a meal of blue bottles. These local residents need our help.
So….my pledge is that I will carry a Plog bag to each and every Chocolate Fitness Land or Kayak Session and if anyone feels like it, they can deposit. If the harbour has taken a southerly wind blasting, and uber ocean has delivered on our doorstep, I will fill the plog bag with or without help.
We are an army of energised coastal walkers, dog walkers, joggers, renegade trainers and paddlers. There are thousands of us. We won’t make a fuss, we can pick it up in our stride, there will be no rewards or accolades but the difference may just be noticeable.