Over 230 children from local schools gave up their lunchtime to get their hands dirty in Auckland last week cleaning up their favourite beaches. Accompanied by local businesses and volunteers, the kids collected a staggering 8,847 pieces of rubbish from Okahu Bay, Mission Bay, Kohimarama Bay and St Heliers Bay.
From earplugs to underpants, shoes to food wrappers, the range of rubbish found on the beaches astonished participants. More than 2,000 of these items were cigarette butts; an incredible number to collect in only an hour of sweeping the beaches. The organisers hope that the clean-up gave members of the local community, young and old, a glimpse of what we discard into our marine environment.
The clean-up was part of The Sir Peter Blake Trust’s Care for our Coast programme. The Trust has helped schools all over New Zealand to organise over 1,050 beach clean-ups, collecting over 796,000 pieces of rubbish since the programme began in 2004.
Rachel Deller from the Trust was at the clean-up. “Sir Peter Blake recognised our coastline was deteriorating and he set out to do something about it. This programme is the Trust’s response to his passion and is a practical way to continue his work.”
Rachel was delighted with the enthusiasm all participants showed, but not surprised by the results. “I’m so pleased by the energy everyone devoted to the clean-up. However, it’s clear that this needs to be the beginning of something, not the end. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small pieces of rubbish are still on these beaches, things we’ve missed in the short time we’ve been here today. And this is only a tiny part of our coastline.”
The schools were supported by volunteers from Fuji Xerox, which supervised the beaches and helped keep the kids safe with gloves, bibs and caps. The day culminated in a gathering at Mission Bay where all participants enjoyed a free BBQ as the final collection totals were announced. The students also flocked to welcome ‘Melody’ the penguin, a mascot from Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World which also gave every participating student free entry to its Underwater World; an opportunity to see some of the creatures they have helped by removing the rubbish.
“Some of the schools and individuals here today are trying to make their clean-ups a regular activity,” said Rachel. “We hope others will follow their example: enjoy a day caring for your beach so that others can enjoy it in the future.”