WHEN Graham Johnston led a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition into the Hawkesbury River in 2010, he was so shocked by the sheer volume of rubbish that was found, he decided to do something about it.
So he founded Clean4Shore – a not-for-profit group which engages volunteers to take schools and other community groups out in a bid to clean up Central Coast waterways.
The group has made serious inroads into its goal of removing the rubbish from the Hawkesbury River, Brisbane Water and Tuggerah Lakes and was the recipient of the People’s Choice Coastcare Award at last year’s National Landcare Awards.
The 65 year-old volunteer said when he led that first Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition with members of the MacMasters Beach Surf Club, they managed to fill a kayak, then a full boat with rubbish.
So he formed the organisation in conjunction with the club and subsequently expanded it to include local schools, then disability, Indigenous and local business groups.
The group removes rubbish from the waterways while also educating participants about local foreshores and mangroves.
“The volume of litter has decreased greatly. We’ve picked up the bulk that has accumulated over time,” he said.
In 2017, the group removed 14,888 plastic bottles, a significant reduction from 33,360 in 2016, 14,566 pieces of polystyrene, down from 26,393 in 2016 and 18,575 pieces of plastic, as opposed to 26,818 in 2016.
While figures from 2018 were still being compiled, he expected another significant reduction, estimating around 8000 bottles had been removed.
“This is rubbish that is unseen from the water. You have to get out of the boat, walk the foreshores and look behind the rocks and mangroves.”
He said in addition to polystyrene and plastics, the group had uncovered some surprising items over the years, including train doors, marine toilets and various boating parts.
“Last year we removed 62.9 tonnes of rubbish, went out on 110 field trips, had 513 volunteers and 19,043 volunteer hours were completed.”
He said while those who used the waterways had been very responsive since being briefed on the group’s efforts, the lack of litter traps in the Brisbane Water and upstream in the Hawkesbury were still problems.
“We’re consistently lobbying councils, the state and federal government and all waterway controllers,” he said.
Graham added another major goal was to see the group expand into Sydney, Port Stephens and Newcastle.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the group can look it up on Facebook, or contact Graham via email.