On the morning of 8 April, 2016, 21 keen staff from Westpac’s Brand and Marketing Team boarded charter vessel Cool Runnings in Westhaven marina. They were accompanied by Sustainable Coastlines staff Ryley Webster and Fletcher Sunde, bound for the beautiful shores of Rangitoto Island. The mission for the day was to remove as much rubbish that had been washed up on Rangitoto as possible and to gain a deeper understanding of the grand scale of the plastic problem and the effect that individuals and groups can have on it.
The team landed on Rangitoto at about 10am and spent the next 30 minutes getting ready to tackle the problem head-on. After a short Love Your Coast presentation by Ryley touching on the wider issues of origins and effects of plastics in our environment and the impact that people like us can have on the health and wellbeing of the environment, both through individual and collective action, the team geared up for the 30 minute walk to Flax Point, a real rubbish hotspot.
Flax Point is positioned on the (western) Auckland City side of Rangitoto and bears the full brunt of plastic circulating currents – as the tide moves up the Waitemata Harbour it picks up rubbish that didn’t make it into Auckland’s waste management system, as it ebbs out past the Hauraki Gulf islands it deposits a large amount of rubbish on Rangitoto, and particularly at Flax Point.
Reusable sacks in gloved hands, the team tackled the rocky shores of Flax Point with much gusto. Immediately the team was dispersed and it was then a litter of red Westpac volunteer t-shirts crouched amongst the craggy, volcanic rock of the foreshore, heads down, spirits up.
Over the next two hours (interrupted by a splash of rain), the team picked up a total of 6,613 individual pieces of rubbish. This totalled approximately 500 litres, weighing in at 150 kilos. Of particular note in the haul were 147 toys, a boat hook, a hard hat, an intact fish trap, almost 1,000 individual pieces of food packaging and almost 1,000 pieces of broken glass. Oh and of course $25 (two individual finds of $20 and $5)! The team carted the rubbish back to the wharf where a well-deserved lunch of filled rolls and dried bananas was waiting.
Rested and recuperated, the afternoon saw more action! The team was split in two and some tackled the shores to the east of the wharf while the other half learned about the insightful process of auditing rubbish in order to gain the results listed above. Following this there was a chance for a photo with the full hoard before stashing it all on Cool Runnings for the trip back to Auckland and the rubbish’s rightful home, the landfill – where it should have been in the first place.
On the return journey it was easy to appreciate the impact the day had had on individuals within the Westpac team. Questions like, “What else can we do about it?” flowed from the staff and inspired conversation surrounded the benefits of active conservation measures. On return the boat was unpacked and rubbish disposed of: many hands made light work.
Sustainable Coastlines would like to thank Westpac’s Brands and Marketing Team for their amazing effort on the day. It truly was a monumental effort and the tenacity of the group was inspiring. Thanks also must be made to the team of Cool Runnings for helping to support the event with a discounted charter rate, Westhaven Marina for the disposal of rubbish and All Good Bananas for the nutritious snacks.