Do your bit for the coast this weekend

Hundreds of volunteers regularly dedicate their time and energy into helping protect, preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Great Ocean Road’s flora and fauna every month, including members from the Surfrider Foundation.

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Time to tidy up your backyard

Australians are being urged to tidy up their nearby waterways, roads and neighbourhoods as part of Keep Australia Beautiful Week.

From 24-30 August 2015, Keep Australia Beautiful (KAB) aims to remind all Australians what an amazing, and beautiful country we have. However, it won’t stay beautiful if we don’t clean up our act when it comes to litter.

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More than 9 billion tons of litter ends up in the ocean every year making litter a major environmental problem along our coast and worldwide. The 2013-14 KAB National Litter Index findings are obvious – we have a litter problem.

Whilst the annual report indicates that overall amount of litter is decreasing, there is still an enormous amount of rubbish polluting our natural environment, and cigarette butts remain the biggest pollutant.

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An assortment of rubbish collected by Lorne-Aireys Inlet P-12 College students earlier this year as part of GORCC’s environmental education program.

Not surprisingly, the most littered sites surveyed within Victoria were retail areas and beaches, making our precious coastal environment a high risk zone. So how do you stop litter from entering our precious waterways?

Here are some simple ways to reduce your rubbish consumption by following the sustainable R’s of living.

Rethink/ Reinvent

Only 1 in every 10,000 products are designed with the environment in mind, which is why it is so important to evaluate if there could be another use, or if you really need it in the first place. Ask yourself if you really need the product, or could you make do with something else you already have?

Refuse

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Say no to plastic bags and bring your own reusable shopping bag from home. Photo: Plastic Bag Free Torquay

This is the most direct method of cutting down litter – refuse to any items that generate unnecessary waste, such as plastic bags. Make sure you take reusable bags when shopping to lessen plastic consumption.

Reduce

To reduce rubbish the easy idea is to consume less, or rather, consume the right amount. Rubbish tends to accumulate from unwanted or excess items, so by reducing the amount you purchase, you can reduce your waste.

Re-use/ Repair

Do you ever go to the store to replace something that broke with a brand new version without even trying to fix it? We’re all guilty of it, and this is contributing to the massive amount of litter in our oceans. By finding new uses for what we already have, we can reduce the amount of packaging and save money at the same time. It’s time to be creative with what you already have in the home.

Recycle

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Items that can be recycled. Photo: Wyong Shire Council

The main point that we all know and have learnt about for years – recycling. Although it can seem like an annoying task, separating plastic bottles, cans and newspapers, is conserving our environment for future generations.

Replace/ Re-buy

Next time you need to purchase a product or item, think about going green and buying products made from recycled materials. Look for the labels on the packages that include a percentage off recovered materials.

The Surf Coast is already taking the first steps to a more environmentally friendly community with initiatives like Plastic Bag Free Torquay and Take 3 are helping reduce our impact on the environment.

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Australia has a litter problem and by following these easy tips you can help reduce your environmental footprint. For more information visit the Keep Australia Beautiful website. If you would like to do more in your community, why not check out some of our fabulous environmental volunteer groups here?

How do you use the 6R’s of sustainability? Do you have a favourite re-invention? Share them with us in the comments below. 

Steps to stay safe on the beach

As summer is fast approaching and the weather is warming up more and more visitors are descending on the coast and it is vital you take extra precautions on our beaches to ensure your safety.

GORCC has been calling for all coastal users to take heed of signage, particularly in areas of shared use such as Fishermans Beach.  Read the full media release.

Enjoy the water safely: 

Ensure you read signs on the beach before entering the water.

If you are thinking about swimming ensure you know which beaches are patrolled or unpatrolled to ensure your safety.

You can view a full list of patrolled beaches and key dates in Victoria on Life Saving Victoria’s website. 

During summer, many of our beaches are patrolled by life savers with red and yellow flags indicating the safest areas to swim at each beach – please swim between the flags.

If you are using an unpatrolled beach, make sure you:

  • Read and obey the safety signs
  • Know how to swim
  • Always swim under supervision or with a friend
  • Check it’s okay to swim before you enter the water, conditions change regularly, and
  • If you are unsure of conditions, ask a lifesaver or give it a miss.

Other tips for ensuring your safety in or by the water can be found on our website.

Take care near cliffs
Many cliffs along the Great Ocean Road coast, particularly in the area between Jan Juc and Point Roadknight, and also at Aireys Inlet, are susceptible to instability. Consequently, you should pay attention to advisory signs, take care near cliffs, keep to designated walking tracks and avoid areas of cliff instability.

Areas of seasonal coastal shoreline erosion can also create unstable, temporary ‘sand cliffs’ which are not like normal cliffs and are more susceptible to collapse.

Protect the coast and others – don’t litter! 

Smoking and glass containers are banned from all beaches.

To ensure the safety of all enjoying the coast this summer and to ensure our coast remains healthy and litter free, especially now during the busier months, please remember smoking and glass containers are banned from all beaches.

Several designated foreshore grass areas are also glass-free between 9pm to 6am from mid-November to end-January each year.

Why we enforce bans:

  • The bans aim to reduce the negative impacts of smoking and glass on our beaches.
  • Cigarette butts are a litter and environmental nuisance while glass is a safety and litter issue. Both cause untold damage to people, wildlife and the coast.

So please do your bit and use the bins located in grassed foreshore areas and adjacent to sand areas to dispose of your butts, bottles and other litter.

Click here for more tips on enjoying the coast safely this summer.

Related blog posts:

img_0683 Beachgoers and dunes at risk
?????????? Top tips to care for coast
picture-0111Don’t be a butt with your cigarette:

Don’t be a butt with your cigarette!

How many times have you sat on the beach and found yourself surrounded by cigarette butts?

Cigarette butts continue to be the main source of rubbish found on our Surf Coast – a disappointing result considering the Surf Coast Shire was the first municipality to ban smoking on its beaches.

In 2008, cigarette butts made up 30 per cent of rubbish collected nation-wide by Clean Up Australia and little has changed since.

Great Ocean Road Coast Committee conservation officer Georgie Beale said cigarette butts are everywhere on the coast despite the “no butts” ban on Surf Coast beaches.

“We literally pick up hundreds of butts every time we do a beach cleanup,” she said.

Why do cigarette butts continue to be a problem?

President of the Surf Coast branch of the Surfrider Foundation, John Foss said that cigarette litter will remain a prominent issue in our area because of the huge increase in population and visitation.

“In general there has been a reduction in the number of cigarette butts found on Surf Coast beaches throughout the year however the amount of butts found on our beaches during summer remains the same.

“It’s noticable after hot days and big crowds that we will find more butts along the high tide marks in the sand and on the beaches in general,” he said.

Cosy Corner, Torquay and Torquay Surf Beach have the highest visitations on the Surf Coast during the summer months and as a result are the most frequently littered areas.

Torquay local Maddison Eyre pictured 12 years ago at a beach clean up at Pt. Impossible
Maddison, now 19, holding another container full of discarded butts

Why are cigarette butts so bad for the coast?

Mr. Foss said cigarette butts can have significant negative impacts, mostly on birdlife and the marine environment.

‘Cigarette butts find their way into rockpools and the ocean, then leach toxic chemicals into the marine environment,” he said.

In seawater, cigarette butts can take up to five years to breakdown. After the butts lose their colour, birds and other marine life often mistake them for food.

Also, when cigarettes are carelessly flicked out of vehicles they can smoulder for up to three hours and can cause fires.

“I’ve seen cars pull up at Torquay Surf Beach and dump their ashtrays out the car window straight into the gutter which flows to the sea,” said Mr. Foss

For more information on cigarette butts, please  click here to read Clean up Australia’s fact sheet.

What is being done to resolve this issue?

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee along with other volunteer groups conduct beach clean ups along coast.

Volunteers conducting a beach cleanup at Pt. Impossible

“Students from St. Bernards College Santa Monica have conducted clean ups between Moggs Creek and Grassy Creek  and have collected up to 1010 butts in one session” said, Wally Smith, Technical Director of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation.

Specific local data also compiled by the Tangaroa Blue Foundation shows that cigarette butts make up 22 per cent of all items collected off beaches.

What can I do to help?

Joining a working bee is a rewarding way to give back to community and environment.

The Surfrider Foundation conduct regular working bees along the Surf Coast.

For more information , please email surfridersurfcoast@gmail.com or visit www.surfrider.org.au.

According to Mr. Foss, stopping beach litter is as much about protecting the habitat as it is about keeping our beaches clean.

“If you see anyone doing the wrong thing, please ask them to stop and take their litter home or back to their car,” he said.

Below is a video created by GORCC which gives you more ideas on how you can care for the coast:

Check out our other blogs on litter:

Finding the source of rubbish

Cleanups help conserve the coast

Saving your health and your environment

Keeping beautiful starts with you

Saving your health and your environment

While steps have been taken to reduce smoking on our beautiful beaches, we still need to work together to keep them smoke and cigarette butt free.

The Surf Coast has some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia which attract  millions of visitors each year.  Surf Coast beaches provide an important social and recreational outlet for visitors and locals and are thought of as a local ‘park’ by many.

Unfortunately, our precious beaches experience significant litter during peak summer periods.

A number of studies in recent years have proven that cigarette butts are a major source of beach litter. Data from Clean Up Australia has revealed that over 32 billion cigarette butts are dropped in Australia each year, and that prior to 2004 (when smoking was banned at Bondi) there were 700,000 cigarette butts on Bondi Beach alone!

Cigarette butts are ‘toxic time bombs’ containing significant pollutants that can harm wildlife and damage coastal environments. They can take up to five years to break down in sea water and cost management authorities thousands of dollars each year to pick up.

In 2008 the Surfrider Foundation lobbied local land managers and authorities for smoking to be banned at a number of beaches within the Surf Coast Shire.

The following summer a ban was placed on smoking at all Surf Coast beaches.  The decision marked the adoption of the first coastal smoking ban in Victoria.

The decision has played an important role in reducing cigarette butts on the coast. The Surf Coast ban on smoking extends along approximately 55 kilometres of coast from Torquay to Lorne including the iconic Bells Beach.

The Surfrider Foundation is working with the Surf Coast Shire and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to support the ban.

The Great Ocean Road Committee, as managers of much of the foreshore from Torquay to Lorne, provides bins on grassed foreshore areas and adjacent to sand areas, conducts litter clean ups twice a week and once a day in park season.  The Committee also supports and coordinates volunteer clean up activities on the foreshore

Your cooperation will contribute to a safe, healthy and litter-free coastal environment for everyone to enjoy.

Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection and enhancement of Australia’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through CARE: Conservation, Activism, Research and Education.  For more information, to get involved or to volunteer, Please email info@surfrider.org.au .

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.