SUPtember in Lockdown – Cleaning up Where You Can

“When will somebody develop a phone app that PICKS UP LITTER”

By Joanne Meader, Kayak Share Club

September was a frustrating month as the Covid lockdown dragged on, the 70% easing of restrictions was still weeks away, great opportunities to travel and kayak were postponed and my many clean up plans got caught up in restrictions, red tape and the wrong weather.  The one consolation was that, unfortunately, the rubbish would still be there after lockdown.

As part of my SUPtember plan to paddle and clean the entire shoreline of my LGA, North Sydney,  I had hoped to tackle two large rubbish mounds on Cremorne Point left behind by a homeless resident who had recently been rehoused.  They were threatening to slip from the cliff onto the rocks and, with the right wind and tides, into the water. The Council insisted that they would do it so I had to stand down my teams of 5 helpers who were ready to participate, as well as Maritime Environmental Services who willing to collect the rubbish after we had bagged it.  If all had gone to plan it would have been a wonderful story about council, club and services combining to tackle a potential environmental problem.  However, it seems my emails and phone calls to Council eventually had the desired effect and the rubbish was removed during September.  Thank you North Sydney Council.

Luckily my September 5km lockdown zone let me paddle as far as Woolwich to the west, Chowder Bay to the east, over to the city and a good portion of Middle Harbour to the north. Of course I felt obliged to paddle as much of this territory as possible (over 170km), sometimes with like minded friends, other times alone, but always with my collection bag between my legs. 

High rubbish zones included Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays, the entrance to Lane Cove River, Beauty Point in Middle Harbour and the beaches either side of Taronga Zoo ferry wharf. One of the latter, Athol Beach, has become my outdoor exercise zone where I perform hundreds of squats, lunges and toe touch bends to pick up the endless cigarette butts (116 on one day), polystyrene lumps, and construction debris as well as all the usual rubbish.  Either the Zoo animals have been smoking heavily during lock down or the building sites along the harbour shoreline are contributing to the rubbish washing up on this beach.  

The one Kayak Share Club club paddle, organised after we were allowed to be in groups of 5, departed from Hayes Street Beach with one team going under the Harbour Bridge and the other around Shell Cove and into Mosman Bay.  Almost no rubbish was found in either direction due to the northerly winds pushing the rubbish out of those areas that day.  After southerlies the area is usually awash with rubbish. 

During SUPtember friends and I collected over 11kg of rubbish while paddling, including 41 balls, (mostly tennis), too many surgical masks, far too many cigarette butts, quite a lot of recyclables, and a pair of disposable overalls. I always know when the supermarkets are having specials on candy bars by the number of wrappers I pick up, and it always surprises me that my favourite is obviously not other people’s favourite.

These collections have been recorded in Litter Stopper and the photographs show what a lot of single use plastic is in our harbour.  The bottles and cans are recycled where possible.  Some of the unusual items go into my Flotsam and Jetsam awards box to be handed out to KSC members at the anniversary gathering, in recognition of good or crazy deeds performed during the year.  Who knows what will be found next and if it inspires me to repurpose it as an award.

Talking to people while paddling or doing a beach clean hopefully helps to get the message across about litter.  Some replies I use when sunbathers congratulate me for what I do include: “Come and help, you can do this too, it’s not difficult”, “ This is so much better than going to the gym” and my favourite “When will somebody develop a phone app that picks up litter”. Maybe, just maybe, the message will get through that we are all in this together.

Previous articleSprint Series Regatta 7th Nov
Next articleSizzling SUPtember