Like a little plastic with your fish? the SWITCH YOUR THINKING ON PLASTICS event, coogee beach, 22 april 2018, organised by randwick council's sustainability TEAM

A conversation overheard in a Coogee cafe…

“With today’s fish menu we have a fine selection of local microplastic particles fresh from the sea”, said the waiter.

“Hmmm… maybe I’ll skip those”, replied the customer.

“Well, unfortunately, they’re not optional. They come with our fish, even with our water. They are all through the sea, so fish eat them with their food and they become embedded in the fish and then we eat those fish”, explained the waiter. “It’s a new addition to our diet”.

“New addition?”, replied the customer. “Not sure I want it. Where does this particle stuff come from?”.

“They don’t start out as microplastic particles, or most don’t anyway”, replied the waiter in a patient tone that suggested this was not the first time she had shared this conversation.

“They start out as plastic rubbish like drinking straws, fishing tackle, cigarette butts, plastic shopping bags… even discarded lighters and cable ties. And over time, over the years, the sea and the weather break them down into smaller and smaller particles and it’s this that ends up in our fish and other foods. They last for years, for decades, sometimes for hundreds of years, drifting around in the ocean”.

“So they’re only a danger when the plastic breaks down?”, asked the customer.

“Well, no. They’re a danger before they start to break down too. A danger to fish and turtles, like those that mistake drifting plastic shopping bags for jellyfish and mistakenly eat them. And that’s what that hubbub you see going on across the road is all about. Randwick Council, which looks after the beach here at Coogee, is holding this Plastics — Switch Your Thinking event so people can rethink how they dispose of plastic rubbish. Instead of tossing it out, we can recycle it into some other useful product. Commonsense, really.

“You might see Tim Silverwood over there. He’s the surfer and a campaigner who started Take Three For The Sea to encourage people visiting the beach to pick up three items of rubbish, rubbish of any sort, and put it into the recycling or landfill bins. There’s Responsible Runners too, people who like to run along our beaches although the woman there told me their running is more like strolling because they do the Tim Silverwood thing and pick up rubbish.

“There’s Responsible Cafes, some of whom offer a discount on takeaway coffee if you bring a reusable coffee cup. We’re a member of Responsible Cafes too. And if you want a reusable takeaway coffee cup you can buy a glass one for $5 from the council stand over there. That’s a bargain because they usually cost $15”.

“Uh-huh”, replied the customer who by now had lost his appetite for fish. “Maybe I’ll have the fruit salad instead of the fish. And maybe I’ll walk over the road and check out those cheap glass reusable coffee mugs. I was going to take a dip but, well, maybe I’ll skip that and instead take a stroll with those runners and do something good about cleaning up this beach that we all share”.

The problem…

A fine collection of plastic wastes was on display Plastics — switch your thinking at Coogee Beach. Baloons, plastic drinking straws, cotton buds, food wrappers and more — all fished from our oceans.
Left: We could collect a lifetime's supply of thongs ('flip-flop's to those in the UK, 'jandals' to New Zealanders) from our seas and beaches. Colours might not match, but we can be sure the materials they are made from will last a long time. That's what they do before breaking down into microplastic pollution in our oceans. Foam plastics degrade into small and smaller pieces and, maybe, become undigestible fish food. Right: Drop a ciggarette butt in the drain in the suburbs and it could end up on our beaches. Oh yeah, we swim in this stuff too.
Fishing produces a fine feed but when we leave our fishing tackle in the ocean it is worn down into smaller and smaller bits. But who knows? Maybe the fish that eat the microplastics are eaten by us.

The solution…

Smart people and responsible citizens, Responsible Runners offer an open invitation to join them on their monthly clean-up run (or walk). At right is surfer, Tim Silverwood, who took direct action to clean up our beaches when he launched Take Three For The Sea, an initiative asking us all to collect three pieces of rubbish from the beaches we visit. Behind is Randwick Councillor, Murray Matson (Greens).

Listen to the Take 3 for the Sea song by the Amazing Drumming Monkeys

Sarah Cheer is a young woman with her own solution to waste in our waters. She knows that plastic bags degrade not only our seas but our land and cities too. With other solutions-oriented people Sarah sews Boomerang Bags, long-lasting replacements for single-use plastic bags that can eventually be recycled. Here's a young woman showing leadership.

Here is Sarah from Boomerang Bags.

So, now we know where to buy our takeaway coffee now that we are part of the solution to ending microplastic and other pollution of the seas we swim in. Responsible Cafes is a business solution and all we need do is take along our reusable coffee cup for a top-up. Top right: Randwick Council were offering $5, glass reusable coffee cups at the event. That's a bargain.
Thanks to the artful talent of Rudy Kistler (lower right), a spouting whale appeared on the Coogee Beach walkway. Meanwhile, children make their own chalk art nearby.
Throwing away our wastes might be convenient for us, but maybe not for other people who have to do the cleaning-up or the sea life that ingests our microplastics. So, here's a clever way to get our message across: an inconvenience store whose products are washed up on our beaches, collected by this savvy young woman, Marina DeBris (Save the Seabirds - https://www.jenniferlavers.org), and relabelled and repackaged as products.

Entertainment with a message for kids and adults was provided by the Amazing Drumming Mondays. Get up and dance with the Monkeys…

Some of the Inconvenience Store's fine selection of ocean products…
On its way to Sydney's beaches — a gross pollution trap like this one installed by local government prevents plastic and other wastes before they enter our seas.

The team…

Randwick Council's sustainability team were the folk behind the day's event. They know that being out in public and talking to people (as well as offering cheap, reusable coffee cups) does more than sitting in the office.

The sustainability team from left: Zaman, Helen, Sam, Peter, James and Natalya.
Iconic: self-powered bicycle transport for the family, reusable coffee cups, reusable cotton shopping bags, good advice and good conversation — the things that show that, together, we can do it better.

Want to join these smart and savvy people in making our seas cleaner and beaches better places to surf and swim? Here's where to do more:

Randwick City Council sustainability team: https://www.randwick.nsw.gov.au/environment-and-sustainability/environmental-whats-on

Responsible Runners: http://www.responsiblerunners.org

Take Three For The Sea: https://www.take3.org

Responsible Cafes: responsiblecafes.org

Artist, Rudy Kistler: zestevents.com.au

Save Our Seabirds: https://www.jenniferlavers.org

Created By
Russ Grayson


Photo & text by Russ Grayson — https://pacific-edge.info

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