Kayaker collects 34 items of litter in Hacking River in 45-minute paddle

Appeal for action: Tom Grant says the container deposit scheme will help reduce river litter, but won't curb single-use shopping bag pollution.
Appeal for action: Tom Grant says the container deposit scheme will help reduce river litter, but won't curb single-use shopping bag pollution.

Tom Grant, of Cronulla, loves kayaking on the Hacking River.

What he doesn’t love is the enormous amount of litter in the water, particularly downstream of Audley in Royal National Park.

River of rubbish: Tom Grant with some of the litter he pulled from the Hacking River during a repeat exercise a fortnight later, which produced similar results.

River of rubbish: Tom Grant with some of the litter he pulled from the Hacking River during a repeat exercise a fortnight later, which produced similar results.

Mr Grant itemised what he found one morning between Christmas and New Year.

During a 45 minute paddle 1.5 kilometres downstream from Reid’s Flat near Audley, he collected 14 plastic bags, 10 drink containers and 10 assorted items.

Five of the plastic bags were the single-use type given out in supermarkets, five had contained food such as bread and four were sandwich bags.

Of the 10 drink containers, five were aluminium, four were plastic and one was glass.

The remaining items included three foam cups, a waxed cardboard cup, three snack food packets, a plastic spoon, fishing tackle packet and 2.5 metres of fishing line.

Great concern: A single-use shopping bag floats in a section of the Hacking River where Tom and Gina Grant have seen green sea turtles in summer.

Great concern: A single-use shopping bag floats in a section of the Hacking River where Tom and Gina Grant have seen green sea turtles in summer.

“The number of drink containers making their way into the environment and to landfill is expected to decrease significantly when the container deposit scheme gets under way,” Mr Grant and his his wife Gina said in an email to Environment Minister Mark Speakman.

“However, the number of plastic bags in the river is of great concern, especially as we have on a number of occasions observed green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in this stretch of the Hacking River during summer.

“The ingestion of plastic bags has been documented as a mortality factor in various turtle species, including the green sea turtle.

”While education and clean up campaigns are important to addressing this issue, the phasing out of single-use plastic shopping bags is pivotal to reducing their entry into the environment.”

Mr Speakman said, last year, the state government announced the state’s biggest ever anti-litter initiative, a 10 cent container deposit scheme.

“Implementing that scheme, which rolls out from July 1, is the government’s current waste management priority,” he said.

“Drink containers are our biggest litter problem. In the most recent National Litter Index, drink containers made up 49 per cent of the total volume of litter in NSW and plastic bags made up less than two per cent.

“Containers that will be caught in the NSW Container Deposit Scheme made up 43 per cent of the total litter volume.”

Mr Speakman said, as he indicated last year, the government was looking at options regarding plastic bag litter.

“This includes undertaking research with the CSIRO on the environmental impacts of biodegradable bags, which will be finished shortly and will inform government decision-making,” he said.

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