I will never forget the day I came out of the surf, peeled my wetsuit off and found a dirty cigarette butt stuck to me. I don’t smoke – it had made its way into my wetsuit from the ocean and it seriously, seriously grossed me out. The thought still makes me want to dip myself in sanitiser! It’s a small and personal tale from a much bigger story. Our oceans, and the wildlife in and dependent upon them, are literally choking on our rubbish.
Take 3 For The Sea is a not-for profit organisation that asks you to do exactly that, take 3 pieces of rubbish off the beach or out of the ocean every time you go. This may seem like a small and insignificant thing, yet think about it. How many people walk the beach everyday? How many people surf or swim everyday? How many people bootcamp and run every day by our beautiful shores? What if every single one of those people picked up 3 bits of rubbish every time? Now does it seem worthy, now will it make a difference?
Amanda Marechal, co-founder of Take 3 was kind enough to tell me more about Take 3 and how we can all get involved.
So where did the idea come from, to start Take 3?
It basically started with a surf trip in Hawaii. While I was there I was looking for good images of jellyfish, I found one that was great and then realised it was actually a plastic bag. This reminded me of the Pacific Garbage Patch, it was an issue that had been on the peripheral of my awareness for a long time and then it just became more important to do something. I had a conversation with a marine ecologist friend, Roberta Dixon Valk, which became an idea that she wrote a vision statement on and then it became real.
What does Take 3 look like now?
In 2011 we won a $50,000 Inaugural Taronga Conservation Green Grant that gave us the ability to really kick-start a lot of programs. We have programs for raising awareness in schools, surf clubs and communities too. That is really our focus, the children. These are the people who will be going into business and making the big decisions. If we teach them now they will be making more educated and conscious decisions. We also work with the students studying to be teachers at the University of Newcastle. They can take it to the classroom with them and spread the message at more schools.
Take 3 recently worked on Project Green Sea Turtle, a leadership program with an Aboriginal perspective. The program worked with 24 Primary schools with an outreach to over 6000 students and their families. An abstract for the project has been accepted to present at the NSW Coastal Conference in November.
How big is the marine plastic pollution problem?
It is now recognised by the United Nations as a Key Threatening Process. It’s on the agenda of the Our Oceans Conference which is happening now in Washington DC and co-founder of Take 3 Tim Silverwood is there to present (see http://m.state.gov/index.htm). CSIRO studies show there are 4000 pieces of rubbish per square kilometre of Australian coastline. There is literally 8 million tonnes of rubbish going into the oceans each year!!
The debris causes wildlife death by choking, drowning, organ laceration and starvation. Also in some cases the plastic waste is so dense it reduces sun exposure to Phytoplankton, lowering the numbers of these essential creatures and in turn impacting creatures further up the food chain.
What is the ultimate goal for Take 3?
To be redundant! To get the conversation started about reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling plastic. It is actually a valuable resource. There is a technology available now that turns soft plastics back into diesel fuel. We need to look at technologies that look at products so there is a useful end life. A “cradle to the grave” concept just like in nature. We are really trying to stop the excess production and use of plastics while at the same time recycling and cleaning up the plastic already out there.
What can the individual do?
Stop using plastic wherever possible. Use glass or stainless steel drink bottles and refill rather than buy water in bottles. Use ‘keep cups’ when you go for takeaway coffee, basically try to get away from the single use plastics. Start the conversation and set the example for those around you to follow.
If you are involved with a community organisation or school, get in touch with us. We have a few requests from schools in Queensland and we’d love to organise coming up to visit schools and share the program.
It may seem like a massive and overwhelming problem but each of us has the power to begin tackling it. Just small adjustments and decisions in everyday life can add up to big changes for our planet. Oh, and if you are one of those people who must destroy their own inner environment with cigarettes, please be considerate of everyone else’s external environment and bin your butts!!
IMAGE (c) Nick Pumphrey