How often do you take a hike along your favourite trail and notice all the trash recklessly discarded? The remote beach that you hiked into for hours has plastic floating to the surface as you strip off for a swim. A barefoot walk on your favourite beach can find more plastic wrappers, fishing lines and straws than you can bear to walk past. There is a solution.
Collecting rubbish from the shoreline on a recent barefoot beach walk with the family.
The amount of rubbish in our environment, in particular, our marine parks are overwhelming.
The world has produced over nine billion tons of plastic since the 1950s
165 million tons of has found its way into our oceans
An additional 9 million more tons entering oceans globally each year
Only 9% (approx.) of plastic gets recycled- the rest pollutes the environment or sits in landfills
Plastics can take up to 500 years to decompose, leaching toxic chemicals into the ground
(data from Phys.org)
With statistics like this, it seems helpless to grab a few pieces and pop them in the bin right?! As if the small amount that we can do will make a difference. Wrong, every piece of rubbish that we pick up and dispose of is one less than risks becoming ingested by our wildlife and marine animals. Imagine all of us took just 1 bag of rubbish from the environment each time we took a walk.
Collectively, we can make an impact.
These figures are just the tip of the iceberg with Australia alone generating 2.5million tonnes of plastic waste alone. Only 9% was sent for recycling (227,000 tonnes), while 84% was sent to landfills (2.1 tonnes).
Households were the largest contributor, a whopping 47% of all plastic waste -1.2 million tonnes; the second was manufacturing at 15% - 380,000 tonnes.
Amanda & Shannon hiking the beaches of Wilson's Promontory where the project concept was born.
FINDING OUR WHY
Often when I am overwhelmed with a problem, I take myself outside for a walk. Walking is an autonomous activity whereby we aren’t required to think about the movements we make. This allows our creative brain to activate and consider alternate solutions to the issues we face.
Years ago, Shan and I were camping in Oberon Bay, Wilsons Promontory. After a 15km hike, we set up camp and took a walk along the sand. We were horrified by the amount of rubbish washed up on the remote beach. From the haul we moved off the beach we removed: fishing line, bottle caps, straws, plastic packaging, bottles, and other plastics and foils broken down into smaller pieces that risked being mistaken for small baitfish that marine life would have swallowed.
We sat at camp that night considering how we can be part of the solution. Rather than sit there idle in desperation waiting for someone else to come up with a fix. Shan sat there plaiting the fishing line into a bracelet that I still wear to this day, both pondering how we can combine our love of hiking with cleaning up our remote beaches.
HOW WE INTEND TO HELP – ONE HIKE AT A TIME
Fast forward a year(s) and our vision to hike in and clean up the trails has grown legs. Over the first Victorian lockdown, we spent hours fleshing out a project to get new volunteers into nature.
Pick It Up & Pack It Out was born; a unique project to inspire solutions to rubbish in our environment. Volunteers are rewarded with a multi-night hiking experience; our mission is to clean up the iconic trails of Wilsons Promontory.
The concept is to reconnect with nature and bring awareness to the environmental impact that human waste is having on our wildlife and wilderness areas. Our mission is to provide an innovative path to addressing environmental issues whilst empowering people with the knowledge and skills to explore our National Park and wilderness areas responsibly.
By engaging people in something that they love or wish to experience through hiking the trails, the project aims to introduce unique and creative solutions to address the issue of human waste on our beaches and trails.
Our legacy is to provide inspiration through education and empowerment with a hands-on approach to effectively:
Significantly reduce human waste in Wilsons Promontory National and marine parks.
Create ongoing volunteer opportunities to protect our Parks and reduce rubbish on the trail.
Identify areas and establish other volunteer opportunities in other regions of Victoria’s park and forests.
Collect and analyze feedback from volunteers to continually adapt Holistic Hikes in order to build an enduring volunteer aspect to our business that gives back to the environment.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Overwhelm can lead to anxiety. Do you know what helps overcome anxiety? Yep, action. Regardless of how insignificant we feel our actions are, they are better than throwing our hands in the air in defeat.
There are things that we can do, even small steps at first that will all help to clean up your actions – to be part of the solution and not the growing problem;
Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Repair, and Recycle. ; Reduce the amount of plastic – find alternatives like buying at the bulk store and using the paper bags then transfer to recycles jars when you get home. Refuse plastic where you can – cucumbers wrapped in plastic, buy an unwrapped Lebanese one instead. Reuse plastic where it is already in your home- zip lock bags? Hand wash and give it a long life of many uses. Repair/repurpose; fix it rather than throwing it away. An old pair of bootleg jeans can be repurposed to a new pair of cut-off shorts.
Pick it up- Heading out for a walk? Take a rubbish bag and some gloves and grab what you can when you can. Yep, it sucks picking up other people’s trash. Every bit helps. You will have a cleaner conscience too.
Get involved with a community clean-up or donate/ support organizations such as SeabinProject- this organization is getting creative with innovative products that clean our seas.
Holistic Hikes Innovative project concept; 'Pick it up & Pack it Out' aims to inspire people to reconnect with nature through volunteer opportunities. Hiking and cleaning up the trails.
THE PATH FORWARD
The issue of rubbish in our environment, in particular, our marine parks is one that we will be dealing with for generations to come, therefore it is imperative that we act now; that we educate, empower and provide solutions, tools, and strategies in order to clean up our act; collectively.
Whether is the discarded rubbish of a fellow hiker or the washed-up sea junk that accumulates in the shallows and on the shorelines, if we can all do our part to pick it up and pack it out we can leave the world a better place, one step at a time.
We love our trails our beaches and intend to do what we can to make a difference.
Amanda & Shannon
The Parks Victoria Volunteer Innovation Fund is about creating new opportunities to inspire ideas and encourage innovation by funding community-led projects that consider new ways of volunteering in and for the environment.
Vote for us- Public voting is open until the 12th of August for the Parks Victoria Innovation Fund. We would appreciate your help and support by voting for our project.
If we are successful in our application for funding for our project, we look forward to putting our first foot forward in early 2022. You can stay up to date on the project and an opportunity when more information is released by subscribing to the email.