I spent a few days over Easter on an island off Wilson’s Promontory, a glorious wild place with those lovely feelings of isolation and not a Man Friday footprint on the beach.
The magic of the place was not complete however, for there was something else on the beach – rubbish. We collected four bags of the stuff to take back with us.
And what stuff? Drink bottles (some unopened), bait bags and deflated balloons with their plastic ties. The first is flotsam as they mightn’t have meant these to go overboard, the second is jetsam and many many anglers must be just too lazy to dispose of this properly and they just throw overboard their empty bait-bags. The third is quite worrying. Too many public celebrations are marked with the release of helium balloons. With Melbourne’s prevailing nor-westerlies, these rise up, are carried to the south-east and fall in Bass Strait after slowly deflating. If they wash up at least it means that they haven’t been mistaken for food and have choked a fish or bird. Why not a release of white pigeons (shudder – an exotic species but not likely to choke anything) or perhaps a local species of butterfly. Now here’s a business opportunity – breeding a range of butterfly species for celebratory releases.
Until then, environmental educators, we’ll need to redouble our efforts, think more creatively about reaching receptive audiences and see what we can do to help the understanding of litter problems. Our key performance indicator – how much rubbish on a beach?