Striving to keep trash from oceans

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Cleaning up . . . Coaster Des Watson was in Timaru last week, collecting rubbish - including a plastic 'fish' used to hold soy sauce for sushi, straws and polystyrene - at Paititi Point. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

It is a bit of a rubbish job, but Des Watson has taken up the challenge.

The West Coast-based travelling rubbish collector was in Timaru last week for several days, and spent a large amount of it collecting straws, polystyrene, cigarette butts and other rubbish from Patiti Point and other locations around town.

He said much of the rubbish ended up in waterways, on beaches and in the ocean from littering in towns.

The rubbish got into the stormwater system, and then on to the beach or into the water.

Mr Watson hoped people would think about their littering.

His comments were backed up by Timaru District Council communications manager Stephen Doran who confirmed there was not a lot of infrastructure that was able to stop litter entering the stormwater system.

Haul . . . Just some of the rubbish Des Watson has collected around Timaru. PHOTO: DES WATSON/SUPPLIED

“People need to remember if they drop rubbish on the street . . . it will end up in the sea.”

Mr Watson, who has been travelling the country since January collecting rubbish, said while street cleaners could pick up some of the rubbish, a lot of it ended up in drainage systems that fed into streams and the ocean.

When he talked to The Courier, Mr Watson said he had collected between 200 and 300 cigarette butts from near the stormwater drain at Patiti Point that morning.

While some had clearly “been there for years”, others were quite fresh.

People could have dropped them at the beach, but others had come through the stormwater system, he said.

“People need to remember if they drop rubbish on the street . . . it will end up in the sea.”

He had also dealt with plenty of illegal fly tipping, where people have purposely disposed of rubbish in an illegal location instead of proper rubbish facilities.

However, on the West Coast he had also picked up plenty of landfill leakage from the Greymouth dump, which had begun leaking rubbish following flooding several years ago.

“Landfills are really concerning.”

“It’s entering the ocean, tonnes of plastic.”

Mr Watson had first become interested in the issue of rubbish after following the work of activist group Sea Shepherd for several years.

The group had done beach clean-ups over the years, as well as highlighting the amount of rubbish in the oceans, and the impact this was having on marine life, particularly the items small enough to be ingested.

Mr Watson would continue on his rubbish-collecting mission and hoped it would inspire others to pick up stray bits of rubbish, either in a group or individually.