Rubbish & Our Waterways – Why Recycling Is So Important

Rubbish in our waterways is serious – it impacts the water quality, habitat and the wildlife. From cigarette butts thrown out a car window, to plastic straws blowing in the wind, even the smallest piece of rubbish can have a huge impact. Once this rubbish hits the waterways, it can be hard to remove and once caught in an ocean current, it can float thousands of kilometres. Your plastic bottle lid that hits the water today could be shark food in New Zealand in future. 

And it joins some 12.7 million tonnes of litter that ends up in the ocean every year. Sydney Water alone is removing more than one million plastic bottles from Sydney waterways each year.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 80 per cent of marine pollution is generated by land-based activities and it’s having a devastating effect on our oceans. If we want to protect the environment, and our future, we need to start by taking care of our waterways – and we can all play a part.

Why Rubbish In Our Waterways Is Bad 

The biggest problem with trash in the waterways is that it can harm and kill wildlife. Every year, it accounts for the death of at least 100,000 marine mammals – turtles and whales – and around one million seabirds worldwide. There are two main issues – wildlife becomes entangled in the trash or mistakes it for food. 

Entanglement can lead mammals and birds to become severely injured, even resulting in death. Seabirds commonly become entangled in fishing lines or nets, losing their ability to move and catch prey. Mammals can receive cuts from debris, and it can lead to amputation. The fact is, if animals can’t fly, swim or hunt properly – they die. 

Ingestion, on the other hand, occurs when a marine animal mistakes plastic bags, rubber, balloons, and so on, for prey and swallows them. Turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, while birds will mistake polystyrene balls for fish eggs. This can block their digestive system – making it impossible for the animals to feed property and again, they die. 

It’s not just about the wildlife though. Rubbish also makes the waterways dirty and turns tourists away – no one wants to go kayaking or snorkeling in waters that are covered in junk. 

What You Can Do If You See Rubbish 

Every little bit counts. 

If you’re spending time at the local waterways or a day on the beach, you need to start by taking care of your own. If you’ve made a mess, clean it up. Be extra careful to not leave any stray bottles or cans lying around, pick up napkins and bags – lightweight rubbish can easily be picked up by the winds or tide and make its way into a bird’s line of sight. 

If you see rubbish on the beach that hasn’t been left there by you, it doesn’t do any harm to pick it up and bin it. Consider the impact it will have on the environment if you do that – you could be saving the life of a dolphin or turtle. 

Get involved in organised clean-up events and don’t be afraid to report instances of illegal dumping to your local city council. 

How We Can Stop Rubbish Getting Into Waterways 

If you see rubbish on the ground, pick it up – that’s great. But essentially you want to avoid getting rubbish there in the first place. There are things you can do yourself to stop rubbish from spreading to stormwater drains and beaches and it starts in the home. 

Have you heard of the five Rs? 

Refuse is the first R and it’s the most important one – when you’re offered a plastic bag to carry your items, say no. Refuse to buy wasteful products. Refuse anything that isn’t recyclable. 

Reduce the amount of harmful, wasteful, non-recyclable products. Start by reducing the packet foods you buy, buy in bulk to reduce wrapping, and reduce paper waste with a No Junk Mail sticker on your mailbox. 

Re-use your water bottle – BPA Free is best. And re-use other items you may generally throw away. Forget single-use plastics – these are a major killer of marine wildlife. 

Repurpose. If you can’t reuse it, try repurposing it. Get creative. For example, rather than throwing away old cardboard boxes, keep them for crafts for the kids. Coffee mugs can become plant holders. And so on. 

Recycle as much household waste as possible. You can do this by ensuring your waste is put into the correct bin at collection time. If it doesn’t fit in the bin, you can look into getting a rubbish removal company to come and take everything away to the local recycle centre. 

Here’s our top tips: 

  1. Use your own reusable shopping bags and if you’re buying fruit and vegetables at your local supermarket, ignore the plastic bags that are provided to bunch them in. While you’re at the store, you can also choose loose veggies and fruit rather than packaged.
  2. Avoid buying bottled water – take your own out with you instead. And rather than accepting a disposable cup at your favourite café, take your own travel mug instead and ask them to fill that up.
  3. Don’t buy glitter. This can be hard if you have a little girl who loves fairy-land, but did you know glitter is made from plastic? And because the particles are so small, you can’t filter it out of wastewater.
  4. When you’re out boating, remember to bin your rubbish properly. The bins located at most ramps are for general rubbish only – which means your recyclables are going to the wrong place. Take your trash home with you, where possible, and sort it there. Just make sure you keep it secure in the trash bags so it doesn’t blow away and isn’t accessible by hungry Ibis.

By taking care of your rubbish and recyclables, you’ll be limiting the amount of waste you’re putting into the environment and as such, reducing the impact you make on the waterways. If you need assistance for rubbish removal Sydney, get in touch with our team today!

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