Every beach in Newcastle has its own plastic footprint.
Whether it’s full of coffee cups, water bottles, straws or industrial items like hard hats, each location has a product that frequently appears.
Sea Shepherd Newcastle, a branch of international organisation Sea Shepherd, is hoping to change that.
The local chapter hosts events and monthly clean-ups while raising funds and awareness for the global initiative, which has defended whales, dolphins, seals, sharks, penguins, turtles, fish, krill and aquatic birds from poaching, unsustainable fishing, habitat destruction, and exploitive captivity.
Through its Marine Debris Campaign, the Newcastle team will conduct a beach clean-up on Saturday 30 January at Bar Beach to collect and correctly dispose of the rubbish that is left behind.
“People can just rock up and grab a bag and clean up the beach with us for two hours or for however long they want to,” event organiser and Newcastle Marine Debris coordinator Ash Gospel said.
“Then at the end we sort it and find out what plastics or what rubbish we found, whether it’s food packaging, plastic straws, cigarette butts, plastic bottles, bottle caps, coffee cups or a lot of microplastics.”
The event will start at 2pm, with volunteer numbers capped at 40 to be COVID-Safe.
Unfortunately, the rubbish found has a disastrous impact on the environment and sea life.
“One bit of plastic could kill an animal,” Ash said.
“Studies have also shown that almost 100 per cent of sea birds have microplastics in them.
“Every time you come to the beach or you go for a walk to the park, you should pick up the rubbish because it can be washed into the ocean.”
Newcastle Sea Shepherd coordinator Kate Wilson said the first clean-up event they hosted at Bar Beach two years ago collected 250 kilograms of rubbish.
“It’s never ending,” she said.
“People at the time were saying ‘why are you going to Bar Beach, it is such a clean beach?’, but this event showed that it wasn’t.
“I think that each beach [in Newcastle] has its own identity in its plastic, like coffee cups at Merewether Beach or industrial items like hard hats at Horseshoe Beach.”
Kate and Ash are calling on the community to help make a difference.
“The ocean is a finely-tuned ecosystem so removing or damaging part of it has a huge ricochet effect on the whole thing,” Kate said.
“You might only be one person, but you can make a difference.
“There is this really cool quote online that goes ‘it’s only one straw said one billion people’.
“Invest your money into reusable, sustainable and recyclable stuff and, if you’re doing it, encourage your friends, too, and jump online and educate yourself.”
She added they were constantly seeking additional helpers.
“We are always looking for volunteers to help with market stalls and other fundraising events, so we are always needing people to help,” Kate said.
“There is also the Direct-Action Crew (DAC), which is a monthly donation so people can help that way, and even just jump onto Sea Shepherd’s website or Facebook page.
“There are lots of different ways you can assist.
“Our main mission on land is to raise funds to help keep the boats out at sea and to also help with the different campaigns that are run.”
Go to the Sea Shepherd website for more information about its work.
To stay up to date with the Newcastle chapter and the monthly beach clean events, visit its Facebook page.