Cabbage Tree Creek Paddle Against Plastic

The rise and rise of the popularity of the Ocean Crusaders Paddle Against Plastic campaign continues as 124 amazing community members from the Deagon Region of Brisbane turned out on a stunning day to smash all records.

Courtesy of a sponsorship from Spinnaker Sound Marina and a grant from the Brisbane City Council (courtesy of Councillor Jared Cassidy), Ocean Crusaders were able to spend two days in the lead up to the event further upstream in Cabbage Tree Creek.  Heading towards the gateway motorway bridge, there was plenty to remove including 10 trolleys, two bicycles, a moped, an air-conditioning unit and around 12 large bags of debris all scattered under the bridge.  With Salter being joined by Mark & Maura Harvey’s new ‘Skinny Tinny’ we managed to fill Salter to the brim by mid morning only to find that the tide was too high to get under the bridge at Sandgate Road.  So we had a play around in Herb Holz Park to find a drain that was spewing out lots of debris and a mangrove patch that was littered with illegal dumping and other trash.

As soon as the tide was down we headed back to our base at VMR Brisbane who kindly hosted our entire event.  Suez Australia had supplied us a 12 cubic meter skip bin and it was nice and shiny but it wouldn’t stay like that for long!!!  We quickly unloaded and headed out for round two picking up several larger items including large polystyrene floats that have come off one of the derelict boats we presume.  We also found a dredge pipe float (Large yellow item in photos) and started to find the many glass stubbies that would become the talk of the clean up.

Day two and our team of 5 headed out again and continued to pull in larger items and then we started on the smaller items upstream.  The issue was that we just didn’t have enough time to cover much ground.  We literally need to start at the top and scour the entire mangrove systems to remove what is decades and decades of built up trash.  Every time you went in for one item, you would spend the next 5 minutes filling a bag and even then you could do more if you had the ability to carry more.  There were glass stubbies buried in mud amongst the mangroves everywhere.  The boats were filling up way too fast and again we had to make a middle of the day run.  Considering Salter is a 7m landing barge and can take a load of 1.3 tonne, it gives you an indication of where things were heading.

By the end of day two and the completion of our ‘Commercial Cleaning’ operations, we had already removed 2,582kg of debris and the skip bin was already looking fairly full.  We also had a pile of metal that wasn’t to go into the bin as the team from ‘Just In Scrap’ were going to come and remove that for us and we had to keep tyres out of the skip as they are a regulated waste stream.

Sunday morning came and it was all systems go.  By 0900 the ramp was covered in a full frenzy of color and enthusiasm as paddlers of all types of craft hit the waters.  There was a conga line of kayaks heading around the marina and upstream.  The sight of our new Kayak trailer turning up with a fleet of kayaks that belong to Clontarf Beach State High School was special as the color of the craft fitted in with our vehicle quite nicely.  As soon as they were unstrapped they were hitting the water. We set out in Salter to help collect the debris from kayakers as did Mark in our new rescue vessel ‘Sweeper.’  Kayakers were deep in the mangroves and as soon as we got close we heard calls of ‘can you get this tyre’ or ‘these bags are ready to go’.  It was seriously impressive how committed this community were to getting this debris out.

Back at base and the team were doing an audit of the debris.  Special mention to Lisa and Deborah who helped our team with the sort from the start to the finish.  They really were troopers.  When I returned and saw the skip bin overflowing with debris I was a little staggered.  It just hadn’t dawned on me just how good the effort was.  To give you an idea, our biggest Paddle Against Plastic haul previously was in Moonee Ponds Creek in Melbourne where we pulled 938kg.  By the end of the day we had a staggering 1,441 kg to take our 3 day effort to a whopping 4,023kg.  That is an amazing effort from all involved.  In amongst the rubbish were:

  • 2,438 plastic lids
  • 4,767 Plastic bottles
  • 6,212 plastic food packaging items
  • 6kms of fishing line
  • 5,961 pieces of polystyrene
  • 5,895 Glass bottles
  • 1,920 aluminium cans

This data has now been uploaded into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative Database where other organisations can use our data to develop source reduction schemes to stop this debris getting into our creeks and waterways in the future.  Stopping it at the source is the best option, however the next best is to stop it at the drain systems where most things wash in.  So it was awesome to meet Rod who owns the Bracken Ridge McDonald’s who pledged to fund the installation of the first drainage collection device for the region.  He also has committed to making his store have Ocean Crusaders Straw Free Mondays.  Combined with the national ban of plastic straws by McDonald’s in 2020, this is where things need to head.  Big corporations making changes for the good.

Along with the recently introduced Cash of Containers scheme, we just shouldn’t see this number of bottles in the waterways ever again.  They are now worth 10 cents so people won’t be throwing them away…we hope.

Together with Ocean Crusaders, the community of the Deagon Ward of the Brisbane City Council have made a huge indent on the issue of debris in Cabbage Tree Creek.  There is still an amazing amount of work to do to get it 100% clean and then stop it getting back in there but we have started something and together we can keep striving towards this goal.  Once there is no debris in the creek, then, and only then, can our wildlife live without fear of suffocation or entanglement from our waste.  This has to be our goal.  We need to continue giving our turtles a voice, continue supporting our dugongs and continue protecting our mangrove systems.  It has to start now and that starts with you.  Every time you shop, think that even though you may dispose of debris in the bin and it goes to landfill, just remember that a lot of debris in the ocean comes from landfill.  A visit to the local tip facilities will show you what escapes with plastic bags usually lining fences and lots of bird life pulling things out.  The only way is to say no to plastic packaging and playing your part in changing the way we treat our creeks, waterways and oceans.  If you buy it, it has the potential to end up in our waterways.  We must stop blaming others and look at our own lives first and foremost.  We need to set an example for others to follow and make plastic free the ‘NORM’

Thank you everyone who was involved in the fantastic event.

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