28 April, 2015

Keep it clean!!

This week-end, I had the opportunity to combine two of my favourite pass times: paddling on the Barwon River and geocaching. For those who haven't seen my earlier posts on the latter subject, geocaching, as defined by geocaching.com is "a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices". Generally, the geocacher (cacher for short) would be attempting to locate a container with a log book which they would then sign before logging their "find" online.
This geocaching adventure however, was a little different. It was a "Cache In Trash Out" event cache (aka a CITO) at which participating cachers log their attendance and then spend some time cleaning their surroundings of litter or weeds or undertaking other environmental initiatives such as tree-planting.
This particular CITO was timed to coincide as closely as possible with Earth Day (22nd April) around the world, recognising the need for environmental action. This CITO held in our little part of the world, attracted a small group of determined kayakers who were keen to remove as much junk from the Barwon as possible.
The crew assembled and ready to paddle
Naturally, given my recent personal efforts in that direction, I was very keen to participate. At the appointed hour, a group of around a dozen of us gathered and hit the water at the boat ramp opposite the boat sheds. The weather was cool and overcast, but clear and not too windy as we worked our way along both banks, downstream of our starting point.

Hard at work on the south bank
The junk to be found in this part of the river is a little different to what I have been finding further upstream. Whilst there were still a lot of plastic bottles, there were also significantly more small pieces of plastic - wrappers, bags, forks (?!), Styrofoam, bags of dog droppings - and even at one point, a number of City of Greater Geelong parking tickets.

The final haul
In all, we were on the water for somewhere near an hour and covered an area a few hundred metres down stream from the boat ramp. The end result was the pile in the picture above. Not a bad effort, however we could easily have continued for much longer and for a much greater distance.
Whilst much of the litter we retrieved was no doubt the result of careless behaviour by river users both on the water and on the bank, some of it had washed in from stormwater run off. This was certainly the case with a collection of bottles and plastics I found near a drain entry point.
It is probably also worth noting, that this is not the first time that Geelong's geocaching community have banded together to tidy up our waterways. at the end of 2013 at what I believe was Geelong's first CITO event, a huge effort was made to clean up along the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford.
Fyansford CITO along the Moorabool December, 2013
Working only from land on that occasion, a huge amount of rubbish, including dumped furniture and significant amounts of household rubbish was removed from the area and from memory, we only scratched the surface on that occasion. Whilst illegal dumping seemed to be a large part of the problem here, the irresponsible dropping of litter seems to be more of a problem on the Barwon - especially through town.
The occasional CITO may not be much, but it is a start and hopefully if more people become aware of the problem, steps can be taken not only to clean up the rivers, but to prevent rubbish from entering our waterways in the first place. These days when I paddle, I always take some rubbish with me when I leave. If everyone who used the river did the same, or though about how they disposed of their litter it would be a much cleaner place.

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