Last week, 14 Oxford University Press staff members volunteered to be part of Keep Australia Beautiful Week (24–30 August), arming themselves with heavy-duty gloves, rubbish bags and hi-vis vests to clean up litter in the neighbourhood. Joined by members of the City of Port Phillip Sustainable Programs team, the KAB volunteers fanned out along Sandridge Trail near the Montague Street light rail station in South Melbourne, braving the wet and wild weather to do their bit for the environment.
Before the litter pick-up, the Port Phillip Sustainable Programs team briefed staff on safety precautions, including the responsible handling of sharps, syringes and other hazardous materials. The volunteers then set off in pairs to begin the clean-up.
What did the KAB volunteers find? Cigarette butts. Lots of glass bottles. Plastic supermarket shopping bags. Tuna cans. Drink cans. Plastic bottles. Did we mention cigarette butts? Cigarette butts are one of the biggest litter problems in the world – it is estimated that 4.5 trillion butts are littered every year! (Source: Clean Up Australia)
Litter is a serious threat to our beautiful environment. Because of the area’s close proximity to Port Phillip Bay, it is easy for rubbish to get washed out to sea, causing a lot of damage to the marine ecosystem and its animal inhabitants. It is estimated that over 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year (Source: National Geographic); litter that will takes hundreds of years to degrade. Over 100 000 sea creatures and 1 million sea birds die every year from plastic strangulation, toxicity or entrapment.
But there are ways that you can help. Apart from not littering, using less plastic and non-recyclable materials will help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the waste system. If each Australian family used one less plastic bag a week, that would result in 253 million fewer plastic bags being used per year! (Source: Ocean Crusaders)
The team ended up collecting 9.215kg of landfill and 3.43kg of recycling. Not bad for a lunchtime’s worth of work! After this year’s successful event, Oxford University Press and the City of Port Phillip are keen to join forces again in future (perhaps in warmer and drier weather!). A huge thank you to the Port Phillip Sustainable Programs team and Oxford University Press staff who did their part to Keep Australia Beautiful.
About the authors: Ross and Alicia are members of the Oxford Australia Green Committee. The Green Committee is dedicated to implementing Green ideas around the office and raising awareness on issues to do with sustainability and the environment.