The Doust Files – Albany Advertiser 1/3/2011

According to Clean Up Australia, WA’s beaches are the filthiest in the nation. In its annual missive Clean Up reports finding about 11000 items per WA beach site.

That’s not a good look.

Can you imagine 1100 items at Ellen Cove? Or even 1100 items between Ellen Cove and Emu Point?

I don’t know if Clean Up has a representative in the Great Southern but I reckon our beaches stack up well when compared to city sandies and most beaches along the western coast line.

That‘s not to say we can be complacent, or that we couldn’t do better.

On my usual jaunt one day last week I picked up quite a collection, including a single bra pad, four plastic bag fragments, a pair of boxer shorts, plastic goggles, two plastic cups, two plastic cup tops, one old doggy bag full of old doggy poo, six pieces of twine, two plastic forks, six hard plastic fragments, and a friend who stumbled as she left the water.

All Items I disposed off in the receptacles provided, except the friend, of course, because it was clear she had a few years left, was not cluttering the environment and was not likely to cause the death of a sea creature if swallowed in her entirety.

About 18 percent of all items found on WA beaches on national clean up day were metal and 10 percent were glass. The top five items were cigarette butts, glass pieces, alcohol cans and bottles, bottle caps and lids.

I don’t find a lot of cigarette butts on our major beach. There was a time when, if I saw someone walking with a butt in their hand, I would ask them nicely to dispose of it appropriately. I stopped after one chap invited me to his place for a barbecue and hinted that I would be expected to be the meat in the sandwich.

My top rubbish items collected on our beaches include plastic bag fragments and plastic bags, lolly wrappers, rope and twine fragments, plastic bottles, drink cups both cardboard and plastic and polystyrene fragments.

It also depends on the time of year. During a Great Southern summer I would expect to collect a lot of glass bottles, but with the weather in its current mood they have been few and far between.

There is one more item I must include on my list, balloon fragments. I didn’t get the balloon gene and am often left standing with a blank face while around me folk shift hot air from their lungs to pieces of flat plastic, blow into them until they are on the edge of bursting, then let them go so they can add yet another layer to the layer upon layer of human debris.

WA leads the country in waste, no other state wastes like us, but there is no doubt that the Great Southern leads this state in beach cleanliness and it is time we stood up and lead from the front.

Here are two things we could do. Create an active volunteer clean-up force, perhaps decked out in t-shirts emblazoned with “You drop litter, we’ll drop you.” Or, perhaps a little softer “Litter kills, don’t temp us.”

Finally, keeping on the front foot, why not become the first WA town to ban the plastic bag.

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