17 Million Pieces – A Tribute to Heidi and all of YOU!

Tangaroa Blue and AMDI partners are so very close to removing and identifying a staggering 17 million items of litter from oceans and waterways around Australia through community clean-ups over the last 16 years, and we couldn’t have done it without you all! 

Heidi Tait, the CEO of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, extends her gratitude to the thousands of volunteers and partner organisations who have come together to collect and track litter over the past two decades. It’s with their support we now have data we need to help stop single-use plastics ending up in our waterways.

The sorting station at a Tangaroa Blue beach clean-up, where all debris is sorted into over 140 different categories

The staff and supporters of Tangaroa Blue would like to take this moment to acknowledge the hard work and determination that Heidi has shown over these past years. From deciding to clean-up her local beach in 2004, to creating the world’s most comprehensive database on marine debris, to implementing data-based change across the country, Heidi has taken the organisation Tangaroa Blue on a huge journey and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon!

16 years ago, Heidi ordered the very first WA Beach Clean-up bags to arrive at the local dive shop where she was working as a guide.  Fiona Brown, long-term employee and current Accounts Manager for the organisation, remembers Heidi’s excitement as her dream started becoming a reality. “I remember our chats back then about the ideas that woke her at night, that she just had to write down so she didn’t forget anything, which is a testament to how driven she was to incite change for the better of our oceans.” 

Heidi out on the beach in Cape York, ready for action!
Even in a giant pile of rubbish she’s smiling!

Heidi’s love for the oceans originated below the surface but extends far beyond that. Shelley Blyth, the owner of Cape Dive at the time Heidi was working there, described her as being “dedicated, innovative and passionate about teaching diving and teaching anyone who crossed her path about caring for the ocean and all the amazing life that it creates.” You’d think that after all of these years someone might get tired about teaching current and future generations about the issue and what they can do to help, but the passion still shines through in her presentations and clean-ups to this day, and it’s no wonder that more and more organisations and individuals are coming on board each year. 

Heidi’s love for the oceans started underwater as a dive instructor

In 2004, the WA Clean-up was basically Heidi running some events and spreading the word locally about what she was doing. Flash forward to 2020, and the WA Clean-up has just seen it’s 16th year of clean-up events held across the state. This year we had over 77 site registrations and the involvement of 1,200 participants from the south coast to the Kimberley region. All of the data is currently being entered into the AMDI Database with the statistics on how much was collected as well as what it was to come out early November. Due to COVID restrictions Heidi, for the first time since she started it, wasn’t able to attend, but the foundation set from previous years meant that the event was a success regardless, thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and staff that took it on. Although the team missed her and hopes she can join again in 2021!

A 2020 WA Clean-up event, where 70 volunteers turned up to clean the shores of South Beach in Fremantle

At the same time as the WA Clean-up, on the other side of the country the Great Barrier Reef Clean-up event took off across QLD, with over 300 volunteers attending Flagship events and pulling 700kg off the beach. Community members also had the opportunity to register their own site throughout the month of October, and the stats are still rolling in on what these awesome volunteers picked up, soon to be released. This event is part of the ReefClean program funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust, which is in its second year after Tangaroa Blue secured a 5 year, $5 million tender to deliver marine debris removal and awareness projects along the GBR, alongside several consortium members. 

Volunteers on Hinchinbrook Island as part of the 2020 Great Barrier Reef Clean-Up

As Alison Dorn, AMDI Project Officer in Perth put it, “Tangaroa Blue is a great example of how one person can make a difference, as that’s how it started, with one person”. Many of us at Tangaroa Blue would agree that Heidi’s “less talk, more action” approach and her dedication to the cause makes her one of the most influential people we’ve met, and we’re all proud of being a part of this organisation.

The now internationally recognised Australian not-for-profit organisation continues to gain momentum thanks to the growing support from individuals, schools, community groups and government agencies that understand the importance of collecting data in creating change. As Heidi herself put it, “the collective effort of so many passionate people working to clean-up their local area has been the lifeblood of our success.”

So to Heidi, and to the thousands of supporters who contribute to the AMDI and protect their patch of beach, we say THANK YOU! 

Now… who’s going to input the 17 millionth item?!

Volunteers and school kids attending a ReefClean clean-up on Moa Island, In the Torres Strait

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