A lot has happened since I last wrote the post about the Litter problem in Melbourne’s Albert Park. Sparked by the sight of a small turtle in the middle of unacceptable amounts of plastic debris in the south bank of the lake, I not only wrote about it, I kept a close eye on the situation down there. I find it completely shocking that in one’s of Melbourne’s top tourist attractions and recreational space for the surrounding community, in a country like Australia, that these amounts of plastic litter are taking so lightly.
After phoning Albert Park, twice stating my concerns for the Turtle and the amounts of plastic present there, they promised to get back to me, but they didn’t. So I headed back 6 days later to check on The Turtle and to see if the plastic had been taken out.
The Plastic was not only still there but actually seemed to have multiplied. The day was extremely windy and the water was rough. so I was unable to verify that the Turtle was still there. I then called a third time, a bit more annoyed feeling like I was not being taken seriously. The Ranger by the names of Charles, the same one who I had initially spoken to, apologized for not getting back to me earlier. He assured me the Turtle was in no harm, and that it had not been trapped in the plastic. He talked about how the wildlife there was in excellent conditions and that the plastic was a localized problem, but not a serious threat to the wildlife at the park. He said the park lacks the appropriate man power to clean this section more often.
After that phone call, I went down to the Park again, two days later, on Saturday the 27 of August. I arrived just in time to watch how two rangers had filled up the back of Ranger’s haute with the mix of leaves and plastic. Even though the truck was full, the amount recovered didn’t seem to make a significant denture on the plastic debris island that forms in the lake. I spoke to one of the rangers doing the pick up, Rachel, who kindly explained to me that it was the part of the lake where all the litter merges and stays. She said she believed that most of the plastic is either thrown in to the lake by visitors, or that it flows in, since they have excellent litter traps from the drainage and they are very good at picking up the litter on the ground. I ask how often the plastic got cleaned up and was shocked when I heard, every two months!
This Monday the 29th of August, I received a call from James Brincat the Head Ranger of Albert Park, apologizing again for the slow response of the park into my query. He again assured me the Turtle was in no way was in danger and confirmed that the cleaning of the plastic rubbish is done every two months approximately. He thanked me for writing about this Plastic Litter issue. He mentioned that his boss was also happy, their impression being that each time the community gets involved it helps bring a positive change to the park.
Head Ranger James Brincat also shared with me how they had in the last couple of years done a wonderful job changing the perception the community had of the the park. Before the importance of the Park was placed in it’s recreational activities, prevailing over the importance of the wild life, but that through their different activities they had manage to shift the importance towards the Wild life in the lake.
We spoke about the way that they are taking the plastic out. I found it little effective to take out also the organic debris (sticks and leaves). The Head Ranger said that they haven’t found an inexpensive way of just pulling the plastic out, and that one of his rangers had gotten hurt trying to pull out only the plastic. I find it hard to believe that there is not a simple and easy way to remove the plastic Litter on a daily basis, or at least once a week. What about a person in a canoe with a net like the one they clean pools with?
This Ranger was very open to collaborating and getting people interested in helping out. He invited me on a tour of the park. I will meet with him on Wednesday at the Turtle’s point and I will later write and post pictures with what he kindly shares with me on that day.
I want to leave something very clear: I do not want in any way to undermine, nor undervalue the work these rangers are doing in Albert Park. Every time I have spoken to them I can easily feel the high level of love and commitment they have for their work. I don’t think it’s their fault or that they are not doing the best they can to solve the many issues that running a park can involve. But clearly there is an environmental problem here that needs to be addressed. If the importance of the park is precisely the Wildlife than the sight of small turtle surrounded by huge amounts of plastic debris is completely unacceptable.
The Authorities here in Australia don’t consider Plastic Litter a serious form of pollution, unlike chemicals or oil spills, because they claim that it does not pose and immediate danger. When I hear this, it reminds me of The Tobacco industry. It took many years of studies to prove the dangers of smoking. Plastic breaks up slowly in the environment, it doesn’t disappear. Each day there is more scientific evidence of the harmful chemicals that leach out from plastic and the effect of these on humans and animals.
Plastic Bags have warnings on them. They are not appropriate near children. We all know that they can suffocate a child! We would never let our children swim in a pool of plastic debris. How is it possible that it is Ok for Turtles to swim in this environment? Have we not seen enough pictures of the dangers plastic bags are to Birds and Turtles?
This sept the 14th there will be a very important viewing of the documentary “Bag It’. Is your life too plastic?” It precisely deals with this important topic. The viewing will be followed by a presentation by Tim Silverwood, environmentalist & co-founder of Take 3. He will discuss plastic pollution in the environment and the measures we can take to reduce our plastic. The date is Wednesday 14th September 7pm at the The Espy, St.Kilda, Melbourne – Tickets here.
I do hope that together; all those out there who love Albert Park with it’s beautiful swans, ducks, birds, fishes and and turtles can unite and find a way where these precious animals do not have to swim surrounded by the remains of our sodas bottles, straws, take away coffee’s, bottle caps and all of our human plastic rubbish!