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I went down to Steel Park for the Cooks River Valley Association Cash for Containers event at lunchtime today. It was a beautiful day & also a beautiful place to have an event – on the bank of the Cooks River walking among the fallen leaves from the Poplar trees that define this park. I love dappled shade & for some reason, it makes me feel good.
Lots of people attended & happy kids with homemade fishing lines were fishing for strings of bottles floating in the Cooks River. It was a relaxed atmosphere with people coming for a while before moving on. Three gigantic Coke bottles were also floating in the river sending a powerful message not easy to ignore. While I was there the tide changed so we had the usual stream of floating plastic drink bottles floating past. It would be great not to have plastic bottles polluting the river one day soon.
Many aluminum cans were exchanged for a 10-cent refund per can so there are likely to be some happy kids who got a pocket money bonus this week. I thought it was very good for other park users to see a community group putting on an event that addresses litter that both pollutes the environment & the Cooks River itself.
Unfortunately I missed Captain Cook in full dress arrive at Steel Park by boat & greet the federal Environment Minister Tony Burke. The media attended & I just watched a good segment on the event on ABC1 News.
There were stalls, petitions to sign & information to take away. Volunteers had spent a great deal of time stringing plastic bottles together to make signs. These looked terrific glinting in the sun.
One family had made a boat out of plastic bottles, onion bags & plastic bread trays. This was successfully launched on the river with a brave woman aboard.
The Cooks River Valley Association did well & created a relaxed, fun event that provided education to those who attended & those who were passing by. It’s not easy to make litter something to which people want to pay attention.
Some facts about the benefits of a Cash for Containers program from literature I picked up today. It will -
- “Reduce the amount of litter found in streets & parks & waterways by almost 20% (by volume)
- Increase the recycling of bottles & cans by over 650,000 tonnes per annum
- A saving of over $32 million in current local government waste & recycling services
- Reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 1.3 million tones of CO2 per annum
- Reduce landfill waste by 6%”
State & federal environment ministers are due to meet mid-year to decide on a National Container Deposit Scheme. You can help the campaign by going to the Cooks River Valley Association –
www.crva.org <– Sorry, this link doesn’t work, this one does –> http://www.crva.org.au/ NOTE 25th may 2012: See comment below by Judy Pincus about going to the Boomerang Alliance website instead of the Cooks River Valley Association. Thanks J
“Australians consume drinks in over 12 billion containers a year. Only half of these are recycled, mostly collected via kerbside & much less, away from home (food halls, events, public spaces). The other half are littered or landfilled representing a big waste of resources. A CDS (Container Deposit Scheme) has been proven worldwide to be the best way to increase collection & recycling. South Australia has had a CDS for over 30 years & now the Northern Territory will have one in 2011. It would increase recovery to 80% – over 4 billion extra containers a year.” ~ Boomerang Alliance
We all know that litter in the Cooks River is a massive problem that is impacting on the health of the river & the wildlife that live here.
Local community group the Cooks River Valley Association (CRVA), along with the Total Environment Centre are doing something about this problem. They have organized a great event to highlight the litter along the Cooks River & also to lobby the Environment Ministers to support a nationwide packaging regulation. The regulation will include a Container Deposit Scheme that gives a 10-cent refund on each returned drink bottle & aluminum can. The Environment Ministers will be making a decision about the regulation in June 2012 so now is the time to tell them what we want.
The Ca$h-for-Containers event is supported by both Marrickville Council & the City of Canterbury Council & will be held on –
- Saturday 28th April 2012
- 11am – 2pm
- Steel Park, Illawarra Road Marrickville South
Activities include –
- World’s Biggest Coke Float
- Bev the Bottle
- Put a message in a bottle for the Environment Ministers
- Information & petitions to sign
- Free food & drink – you will need to bring your own reusable cup & plate.
- Prizes for the best model plastic bottle boats. CRVA are asking that you make one at home & bring it along on the day.
- Please start collecting plastic & aluminum beverage bottles & cans & bring them along to the Cooks River Demonstration Recycling Depot at Steel Park to collect your 10-cent cash refunds to experience how the Container Deposit Scheme will work. Let’s create a Cooks Mountain of bottles!
Containers collected at this event & other events, as well as the best of the model plastic bottle boats, will be taken to Canberra for a rally at Parliament House on 23 May 2012. The boats will be sailed on Lake Burley Griffin or on the lawn of Parliament House.
You can find out more about the Container Deposit Scheme at the Boomerang Alliance website here - www.boomerangalliance.org.au You can send an e-letter to Tony Burke, Minister for the Environment here - http://bit.ly/I7Md0P
You can also watch this fabulous video talking about the campaign & showing our Cooks River & the plastic bottle pollution here – http://bit.ly/uUMGx0
If you are interested in helping prepare & promote this event as well as helping on the day please contact Judy - firstname.lastname@example.org 0414 910 816
Local resident Valentina Mickovska kindly allowed me to post her amazing photo of the carpet of plastic bottles & other items of plastic floating on the Cooks River at Tempe Reserve. The photo was taken early yesterday when the Cooks River flooded.
Undoubtedly, much of the masses of garbage trapped in the rocks that surround Tempe Reserve were dislodged in the flood, but I also think that this floating mess could have added to via stormwater drains. This photo clearly shows the need for a floating collection boom in this area to stop this kind of litter from fully entering the Cooks River ecosystem.
I have been surprised to see just how many stormwater drains enter the Cooks River without any means of collecting garbage attached to them. In my opinion, no stormwater drain should be allowed to empty into the river without a collection devise that prevents plastic bottles, plastic bags & other litter from being flushed into the river uncontested. Not just in Marrickville LGA, but also in all the Councils lucky enough to have the Cooks River flowing through their municipality.
Making this change should not be too costly for the Councils to implement. The collection booms would go a long way in supporting both the Councils & the community’s ongoing attempts to clean up the river. Preventing stormwater litter from entering the Cooks River would also have an immense benefit for local wildlife that live & feed on the river.
We also need a bottle return program because people are less likely to litter when they can get money for returning the bottle.
You have probably read the story of Spike, the Darter that was rescued from the Cooks River recently. Well I have my own version. My apologies for the delay in posting this.
On 19th April 2011 I received a broadcast email from WIRES & Marrickville Mudcrabs – Be on the lookout for a Darter that seems to have something tied around its neck last seen between the Illawarra Road Bridge at Undercliffe & the Wardell Road bridge.
I’m thinking, how is anyone going to catch a Darter? I imagined people stalking it & as they got near, the bird taking off into the air. If you have ever come across a Darter on the banks of the Cooks River, you will know that they are big birds when their wings are open & they are super alert. If you go closer than what they deem appropriate, off they go, usually to the other side of the river. So how were people going to catch one? I imagined ongoing reports of a dying Darter, unable to eat & unable to be caught. I’m sure I was not alone in my concern as to how it was to be rescued.
My worry was a waste of time. Within 24 hours another email arrived saying that the Darter, a female, had been caught & was on its way to the Central Coast for some medical treatment & rehab. I was so impressed. It’s not easy to find a wild bird along the long stretches of the Cooks River & then successfully catch it. It was Good Friday.
The Darter was given a name – Spike.
Locals Gavin Gatenby & his partner Lee had gone out in a kayak after spotting Spike. Gavin jumped into the Cooks River (frankly this is amazing) while Lee herded Spike into a patch of mangroves. Gavin then threw a sheet over Spike & the two of them brought Spike to the shore & into the waiting care of WIRES. This all sounds easy-peasy, but I bet it wasn’t.
Spike had the red plastic snipped from around her beak & neck & promptly put into a carry box. She was then driven to the home of an experienced sea bird rescuer on the Central Coast for some treatment & to fatten up after an unknown period of not being able to eat & perhaps drink.
Exactly, 9 days after Spike after the first email broadcast, Spike was assessed as well enough after rehabilitation to be released. On 28th April, she was driven back to Kendrick Park on the Cooks River to be released to Fatima Island opposite. A small crowd of locals came on a soggy morning to watch & cheer Spike on for hopefully what will be a long, trouble-free & happy life.
What was great was that the story was well covered by the Inner West Courier, The Cooks River Valley Times & the Telegraph. The Telegraph had the most amazing & beautiful photo of Spike, her massive wings spread whilst sitting on the edge of the bath while in rehab on the Central Coast. I’ve never seen anything like this photo.
It’s always nice to have a good story & this one worked out well because of the vigilance & the caring by local people. Plenty of people were on the look out for Spike once the call for help was broadcasted. Within less than 24 hours WIRES had been organized & agreed to come to pick up Spike even though there was no guarantee she could or would be caught the next day. The WIRES person had agreed to drive to the Central Coast & a volunteer had agreed to take Spike into their home for rehabilitation. Most of these things were unknowns; could be bird be caught today or tomorrow or… How sick would she be? How long would she need to be living in my bathroom?
It is my understanding that many people who work for WIRES do so as volunteers. They are unheralded volunteers in my opinion. I doubt the bathroom could be used for the week that a living wild bird was sitting & bathing there. It still makes me chuckle.
As for Lee & Gavin – I can just imagine the adrenaline & the hope they had as they set off in their kayaks. It was only quick thinking to herd Spike into the mangroves to prevent her from taking off into the air that made her able to be caught. Then Gavin did the unthinkable & very altruistic act of jumping into the Cooks River. The water would have been shallower near the mangroves so maybe he was walking on decades of dumped rubbish or maybe he didn’t notice. My deepest respect goes to him for this. All of those involved in the rescue of Spike are heroes in my opinion & I thank them.
The message in all of this is that balloons, bottles, rings from the top of milk bottles, fishing line, plastic, ribbons, plastic netting & anything else made of plastic, string or material that finds its way into our water ways or the ocean can result in so much suffering & ultimately death as the bird, fish, turtle or other creature that lives in rivers, lakes & oceans slowly starves to death. The stormwater traps along Marrickville’s side of the Cooks River are always full of plastic rubbish. The mangroves along the Cooks River are deep in plastic bottles. Bottles float up & down the river with the tide. It’s sad, it’s unnecessary & Spike’s story has shown how dangerous it is to wildlife.
It takes up to 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose & up to 600 years for fishing nets & lines to decompose, though who really knows? It may actually take longer.
If you want to join Mudcrabs & help them in their endeavor to clean up the Cooks River, you can find their contact details in the Blogroll on the left of this page.
Here is Gavin Gatenby’s own story of the rescue of Spike & about the plastic garbage in the Cooks River – http://www.altmedia.net.au/darter’s-distress-highlights-government-inaction-on-plastic-bags-and-bottles/35138
I have made a short video of a Grey-faced Heron picking for food amongst stormwater garbage in a stormwater trap down at Mackey Park – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAESPI6cJ38
This is a short video of Fatima Island with a female Darter running about. Perhaps it is Spike? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyrkhRAhEew
And if you want to see a male Darter drying off its massive wings, this is the video that still makes me feel like I found gold – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dt_BuwZi2eg
We went down to the Kendrick Park section of the Cooks River tonight after having a look at a tree in View Street that is up for removal. Marrickville Council has almost completed one section of work rebuilding the banks.
They have also built a concrete boat ramp & a sandstone & concrete seating area next to the ramp. It looks nice & offers another place to sit & watch the river.
Council appears to be building another swale & have done some work on View Street building a drain to collect storm water that comes down the hill. Everything Council does to collect stormwater is a great thing. I could not believe the thousands of plastic bottles that lined about 50 metres of the bank of the Cooks River caught by the mangroves in the high tide. If
people won’t stop tossing plastic bottles away as litter they will continue to end up in the stormwater drains only to end up in the Cooks River & out to Botany Bay. The numbers were truly appalling. I wondered just how many have sunk & are sitting on the bottom of the river.
I don’t know if Mudcrabs work in this area. If they don’t, perhaps they would if they had more people volunteer to help clean up rubbish like this. Their contact details are in the blogroll.
I was told 2 people started collecting rubbish along the banks of the Cooks River. As passersby saw them collecting rubbish they joined in. Eventually, Mudcrabs was born. Without the work of Mudcrabs, the Cooks River would be in a shocking mess & what I saw tonight would spread the length of the
Cooks River. Look them up if you are interested. The river certainly needs help.
Although there are the wonderful volunteers of Mudcrabs, I seriously wonder how Marrickville Council could walk away from cleaning up this extensive rubbish. Recently Council was talking about using money saved from less verge mowing to clean up shopping areas more regularly. Frankly, I think Council desperately needs to spend money to clean up the Cooks River bank. Relying on the volunteers is not good enough for the same reason why Marrickville Council does not rely on volunteers to clean the streets.
Later, we saw that an unofficial reopening was happening at Mackey Park with all sorts of people using the park & the playground. The youngest was 2 & the oldest 86. Remember, the official reopening with speeches, soccer & sausage sizzle is this coming Thursday 9th December 2010 at 4pm. For details see – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/mackey-park-official-reopening/