Gee it’s was good to be back… but so many plastic bottles and foam floats!

After cancellation in 2020 due to COVID everyone was looking forward to the 2021 Mapoon trip going ahead with much anticipation. This did not proceed as expected, however, as only days before the team were set to leave, Townsville and Brisbane went into lockdown. This resulted in several of our volunteers and our Townsville coordinator, Kara-Mae, having to withdraw. Fortunately Jules stepped up and slotted into the co-coordinator spot at extremely short notice, and with the a-ok from the Mapoon community that we could head north, we were on our merry way!

After 2 days of driving on the very busy and bumpy Cape Roads our depleted group of five volunteers and 2 staff (Jules, Ian, Gabriele, Tanya, Weibke, Fran & PK) finally arrived at Cullen Point to set up camp and commence the five day clean-up the following day. News from locals of a nesting turtle on the beach in front of the camp the previous night had everybody waiting in anticipation but despite the efforts of PK (trained marine turtle rescuer) in trying to locate another, it was not to be.

We also had a number of volunteers who provided support over the week including :

  • Evan and Theine from Dept of Agriculture in Cairns, who were invaluable and taught us so much
  • Jay from Metro Mining
  • Adam and Bec from Rio Tinto
  • Luke & his family (Luke is part of Australian Nature Conservative)


Ian on the beach – the team knew they had a big task ahead of them



Bright and early Sunday morning saw us being joined by  Kelli and her group of Land & Sea Rangers for a Welcome to Tjundgundji Country and safety briefing. Then it was down to business. After consultation with Kelli it was decided we would start at Janie Creek and work our way back towards Cullen Point (a distance of 14km). Already it was obvious the amount of debris we encountered would make it impossible to get it all done, however this did not stop our awesome group from doing their utmost best. The first morning saw 97 bags of debris collected from the first 1.5 km and taken back to camp for a well-earned lunch and then an afternoon of sorting. Already it was noticeable that plastic drink bottles and foam would be high on the list of items.




The pile of bottles just kept growing!

All debris collected on days one & two was sorted, but by the end of day three we still had about 30 bags left over to sort and we already had a stockpile of 5 bulka bags full of plastic water bottles which if we did not sort would need to be taken back to Cairns. A decision was made to sort them now and this is when Jules stepped up to the plate and after a crash course in bottle identification with the team the task commenced with bottles flying in all directions!


Days four & five saw us back out on the beach early collecting more debris knowing full well we would not be in a position to sort it other than to record the number of bags and weights before separating it into recycling and landfill. 

Sadly the time came to pack and head back to civilisation, the hardest part being walking away from debris still left on the beach!

Final numbers for the trip

  • 566 bags of debris collected and removed from 6.1 km of beach (almost half) weighing 4.052 tonnes!
  • 256 bags of debris sorted and counted all of which is entered into the AMDI Database
  • 4 large bulka bags of plastic water bottles recycled through Containers for Change.
The sorting station in full action!


  • Kim from Border Watch travelled down on the final day with Callum and Fritz (Police Liaison Officer) to help out on the beach and then present Tangaroa Blue with a certificate for their ongoing work in Cape York
  • The awesome effort of our small group of volunteers plus the volunteers who joined in to assist us in particular Evan, Theine and Lyn. 
  • The support provided by Kelli and the Mapoon Land & Sea Rangers
  • The trip home when Coen Exchange Hotel staff provided not only free camping for us but also a birthday celebration for long term volunteer Gabriele, complete with a bagpipe rendition of happy birthday and Waltzing Matilda. 
  • A visit by members of the Qld 4WD Club (whom we had recently met on the Fraser Island clean-up) who heard we were there and dropped in. They expressed interest in some of their members getting involved in future events.
Border Force Australia presenting Tangaroa Blue with a certificate for our ongoing work in Cape York


  • The huge number of plastic water bottles
  • The amount of foam floats and associated nylon rope!

We’d like to say a massive thanks to: 

  • Old Mapoon Aboriginal Council (Robyn Bartlett) for all the planning work in the lead-up
  • Old Mapoon Community for allowing us the privilege to come and work on Country with you
  • Mapoon Land & Sea Rangers for coming out every day
  • Morris Family Foundation for funding the clean-up


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