On September 25, the Tangaroa Blue Foundation was invited by the Lama Lama Land & Sea Rangers to participate in a clean-up of One Mile beach located on the eastern side of Cape York, near Port Stewart. This was the second time this year that the two groups joined forces.
The team consisted of community volunteers of all ages, but I must say that the Junior Rangers had the largest and most influential impact. Their enthusiasm for the event was contagious. In fact, as soon as the Tangaroa team were spotted, there were immediate hugs and instant smiles; the kids remembered us, our past event with them, and they knew that it would be a fun Friday cleaning up their beach. Their energy and excitement gave all of us another reminder of why its so important to keep our environment clean and debris-free.
The day began early at the newly dedicated Bruce Rigsby Center where Heidi Taylor gave an informative and engaging safety briefing. It was wonderful to see all the hands of the Junior Rangers, rapidly waving in the air, eager to answer the safety questions. They hadn’t forgotten about the safety topics from the last clean-up event. And although they were eager to hit the beach, through their involvement during the talk they truly displayed their understanding of the importance of safety. That being said, it wasn’t long before everyone had applied sunscreen, put on a pair of gloves, and filled their water bottles.
While on the beach, we worked in teams of two while we searched for rubbish. This was great as now there were two sets of eyes scanning the same area. Some debris can be quite hard to distinguish from that of the natural environment. I’ve found that plastics that are white or rubber remnants that are brown or black are particularly difficult to spot. If they look natural to us, you can begin to understand how they could mislead wildlife. However, by working with a partner at One Mile Beach, it seemed as if no piece of rubbish could escape us! Not only did we have a chance to talk and share with our clean-up teammate while walking, we were also more effective. I was particularly amazed at just how focused, motivated, and really good my 5 year old teammate was at discovering debris’ hiding places. I had already considered myself a rubbish professional, a veteran after participating in 3 week-long clean-ups, but my young Junior Ranger partner blew me away! He was a natural, quick too; nothing could get past him. Looks like I’ve still got more work to do on my rubbish picking technique and something to aspire to!
After covering 1.6 kilometers of beach, the teams returned to the beach camp for some lunch. The delicious meal would later provide us with the energy needed to weigh, sort, and document all that we collected. It was nice to take a break under the shade and celebrate all we had already accomplished in the morning. We were able to admire a now spotless and even more beautiful stretch of coastline.
But there was still more work to be done- data collection, which is just as important as the physical removal of debris. And once again, the Junior Rangers played a large role during this part of the process. They assisted in the weighing of each rubbish bag, and once each bag was emptied onto its tarp, many eager hands dug-in to separate the items based on their material type. It was hard work but there was plenty of room for giggles and curiosity. Many of the Junior Rangers used data collection time to ask questions regarding the types of debris found and how it arrived on their beach. Of very particular interest was the Cybertraker device. The Tangaroa Blue team instructed many of the Junior Rangers on how to use the electronic data storing instrument; and it wasn’t long before the kids were tap-tap-taping on the machine, as they recorded number of thongs found and pieces of plastic remnants collected. The use of this technology during the beach clean-up process was very popular amongst all team members. The data that the device stores is later uploaded into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database and can be accessed by the public, as well as government agencies, to allow for the formulation of debris source reduction plans.
In just one day, the Lama Lama community and the Tangaroa Blue team were able to collect 213 kilograms of debris from One Mile Beach. Much of the collected rubbish was able to be recycled, diverting it from the Port Stewart landfill. Overall, the event was a major success. It was plain to see that not only the Junior Rangers were inspired, but the Senior Rangers and other adults too! At the end of the event, when I asked the younger volunteers what they thought they accomplished during the day’s event, one girl said proudly that, “now the turtles can safely nest on our beach,” while another male Junior Ranger added, “I like beach clean-ups; we should do them all the time!” I can’t think of a better way to end this article. I was truly overwhelmed this weekend by the teamwork of the Lama Lama Junior Rangers and their role models, the Senior Rangers. Tangaroa Blue hopes to get invited to more such events in the future.
Written by Jennifer Wilson / Tangaroa Blue Volunteer