The shocking impacts of city littering are being highlighted in our nationwide campaign, launched this week.
The campaign, developed to supplement our widespread educational work, will be displayed on bus shelters around the country for the next two weeks to help raise awareness about this ubiquitous issue: “Litter flows through drains out to sea, polluting waterways and, ultimately, affecting our seafood,” explains Camden Howitt, Communications Manager.
“Careless litterers are wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems. The message is clear: we do not live in isolation from our environment. What goes around comes around.”
In a study last year, we uncovered an average of 59 pieces of rubbish in each inner-city Auckland drain. Every time it rains, littered items like bottle caps, cigarette butts and takeaway packages very quickly flow out to sea.
For the hundreds of thousands of people fishing our urban waters, the growing concoction of litter in our marine environment is troubling.
Over time, waves and sun break plastic rubbish into smaller pieces, which float around accumulating chemicals from the surrounding water. Unfortunately for the creatures that live there, and for us, these fragments of litter look a lot like what they eat, so it enters the food chain, polluting our seafood.
“Essentially we end up eating our own rubbish” says Howitt. “You wouldn’t bury rubbish in your vegetable garden,” he says, “yet every day we pump vast amounts of litter into the feeding grounds of our seafood.”
No studies have been done on litter in the stomachs of New Zealand’s fish yet, but international research suggests that this issue is likely to be affecting us here. A 2010 study from the middle of the North Pacific Ocean – almost as far away from litter sources as you could be – found that 35% of fish caught had been eating rubbish.
The fate of our neighbours reminds us how bad it can get: seafood caught on the inner side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is no longer safe to eat, while anything caught outside the bridge can only be consumed in very limited doses.
We urge kiwis to take personal responsibility for their litter. “The simple solution is up to all of us as individuals: reduce the amount of waste we create and what we must use, dispose of it properly,” says Howitt.
We worked with tutors from Auckland’s Media Design School to develop the campaign after receiving a donation of 150 bus-shelter spaces from outdoor advertising innovators, Adshel. North Shore-based printers Benefitz provided free printing for all of the posters, which are set to be donated to schools around New Zealand following the campaign.