At the mouth of the River Derwent, we swim in Hobart’s plastic and toxic waste.

I have always picked up litter on paths and ocean beaches. Six months ago, I started walking my dog every day on any one of the six beaches inside the eastern mouth of the River Derwent. Very quickly I noticed how certain weather conditions would bring in specific types of waste. After stormy weather, the ocean regurgitates large ‘delights’ from the deep: chunks of knotted polypropylene rope, car tyres and gear from fish farms and boats.

On the other hand, extended periods of rain are followed by masses of plastic domestic items, such as pegs, balloon shreds, toys, condoms, Band-Aids, cutlery, syringes, single-use bags, tile-spacers, Styrofoam chunks, cable ties, baby wipes and UFPs (unidentified floating plastics – thousands of tiny, coloured pieces of plastic).

So, I initiated my daily ‘forty-minute forage’. The five most common types of waste are plastic straws, plastic lollipop sticks, small pieces of nylon rope, lids and single serve chocolate wrappers.

I am in the process of sorting, photographing and documenting each piece of over 60 kilos (and growing daily) of waste. Three things are apparent:

  • We swim in Hobart’s waste down here at South Arm. New studies are also showing that toxic pollutants, such as DDT or hexachlorobenzene, can adhere to soft, rubbery plastics.
  • I am just one person picking up beach waste – I would love to see a beach waste-free because everyone does it. Start your own ‘fifteen-minute forage’!
  • Or, even better, I would love to see a beach waste-free because everyone at the ‘user end’ is engaged in recycling, refuses to buy plastic-wrapped products, picks up waste around and in storm-water drains, doesn’t treat the ocean like a bin (that goes out to you, on boats) and really considers where the plastic straw or wrapper in their hand might end up.

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