Right now I’m preparing a field talk for year 10 students about beach rubbish, turtles and coastal weeds. I usually take down my beach debris ‘rubbish bins ‘ to start the conversation, but this time, sadly, we have a real-life beach rubbish case study to talk about, unfolding here, on the Sunshine Coast.
The floods and wild weather carried twelve pontoons adrift from the Brisbane River to Noosa’s eastern beaches.
These pontoons appear to be solid – they are heavy, the largest being 4×4 metres, which complicates removal from the beach. Underneath the concrete shell, there is a ‘solid’ core of polystyrene foam which, once exposed to the waves quickly breaks down.
When I walked Jimmy at Marcus Creek on Friday evening I could hardly believe what I saw; large chunks of polystyrene foam floating up the creek! An environmentally aware tradesman, who’d walked from Sunshine Beach collecting the debris kindly waded into Marcus Creek to fish the blocks out that were floating upstream on the incoming tide.
It really does feel like life reflecting art. Here’s a digital photo of Marcus Creek I created in 2018.
Picking up rubbish on the beach is second nature to residents here so there was plenty of debris moved off the beach on the weekend.
Locals piled up the large pieces that washed ashore and they filled up the bins, at beach access paths. On the dog-friendly Marcus Beach, the (compostable) dog bags came in handy to pick up the smaller pieces.
I know the students will get what’s at stake when I tell them how polystyrene breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces polluting the ocean for hundreds of years.
Council is now working out how to remove the pontoons, and still collecting breakaway pieces in large pink skips. More problematic are tiny microparticles that are difficult to remove.
What we really need is councils and governments to replace and ban structures that are dangerous to the marine environment. They must re-think the built environment, particularly around waterways, low lying flood-prone areas and coastal erosion areas. The new reality is that 100-year weather events come around far more frequently; try from 2011 to 2022.
My heart goes out to all those people who are affected by the rain and floods. Sadly some areas are no longer suitable for building on or as places to live. It’s a harsh reality.