How your next beach visit could help save the planet

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·5-min read

Many of us are keen to ‘do our bit’ when it comes to protecting the planet but end up feeling overwhelmed and hopeless in the face of the never-ending deluge of grim environmental facts and statistics.

The news takes a particularly depressing turn when it comes to plastic pollution. Humankind’s intense yet surprisingly recent obsession with this cheap and durable material is now considered one of the greatest threats to the health of our planet.

Little penguin trapped in plastic net
Plastic pollution is responsible for the deaths of one million seabirds, among them Australia's beloved little penguins, every year. Photo: Getty Images.

Since mass manufacturing of plastic began in the 1950s, we’ve produced a whopping 8.3 billion tonnes of the stuff — but just nine per cent of that has been recycled.

The remaining 91 per cent is in landfill, where it will sit for decades or even centuries because plastic takes so long to decompose. Some of it is burned, which releases dangerous chemicals into the air.

Or, it ends up in our oceans at an estimated rate of 8 million tonnes per year.

Plastic pollution wreaks havoc in our oceans; it’s responsible for the deaths of one million seabirds every single year.

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This photo by diver-photographer Geoff Bull shows starkly the effects of pollution on the sea bottom around Sydney. January 6, 1971.
Pollution on the seabed in Sydney in 1971. Photo: Getty Images.

‘More plastic than fish’ by 2050

We’re at a point where so plastic pollution is so prolific that it contaminates our air, land, sea and can enter the human body through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.

If we don’t take action, scientists predict that there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

But what does ‘take action’ actually mean for everyday Aussies? Those of us who want to help but can’t drop everything to become full-time eco-warriors living zero-waste lives?

The good news is, you don’t have to do anything that extreme to make a difference. The simple act of picking up a few bits of rubbish on your next visit to the beach, for example, has a far greater impact than you might think.

It’s the refreshingly straightforward message at the heart of homegrown charity Take 3 for the Sea, as CEO Sarah Beard tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Kate Nelson aka the 'Plastic Free Mermaid' demonstrates how simple it is to take 3 for the sea. Photo: Instagram/plasticfreemermaid.
Kate Nelson aka the 'Plastic Free Mermaid' demonstrates how simple it is to take 3 for the sea. Photo: Instagram/plasticfreemermaid.

“Take 3 exists to conserve the ocean and protect wildlife from the impacts of plastic pollution and waste.

“Our call to action is simple: take three pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or anywhere and you have made a difference.”

To get the word out, Take 3 has taught over half a million Aussie kids about healthy and sustainable habits via school education programs. They also run beach clean-ups and events across the country and offer clean-up kits for those keen to ‘take 3’ on their own.

But surely it can’t be that easy? On the contrary, explains Sarah.

“It comes back to knowing the importance of individual actions.

“When enough people understand they have the power to make positive impacts, the world will change for the better — and it already has!”

Scientists predict that there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Photo: Instagram/pete_milnes.
Scientists predict that there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Photo: Instagram/pete_milnes.

So far, Take 3 has cleaned 1.7 million m2 of beach around Australia and removed 9,700 tonnes of rubbish from those sites, Sarah reveals.

And it’s not just Aussies that are making a dent in ocean plastic with over 129 countries also getting involved in the campaign.

“Through our simple message, over 30 million pieces of rubbish have been removed from oceans and the environment around the world,” Sarah says.

A quick search of the #take3forthesea tag on Instagram offers heartwarming and inspiring examples of humankind’s power to repair the damage we’ve caused to the only place we have to call home.

Despite all of the incredible achievements being made around the world to fight plastic pollution, there’s always more that can be done.

Over 100,000 people have participated in Take 3 beach clean-ups and events so far. Photo: Instagram/take3forthesea.
Over 100,000 people have participated in Take 3 beach clean-ups and events so far. Photo: Instagram/take3forthesea.

How to help save our oceans

  1. #Take3fortheSea. Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or… anywhere, and you have made a difference.

  2. Donate to Take 3 for the Sea. Every dollar donated goes straight back into Take 3’s programs that help to protect and conserve oceans and marine life.

  3. Purchase reusable alternatives to single-use plastics like a coffee cup, tote bag and drink bottle — check out Take 3’s online shop.

  4. Run a clean-up in your community with a Take 3 Clean-Up Kit.

  5. Join the Take 3 community on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date with news, events and more.

However you choose to ‘do your bit,’ it’s worth bearing some encouraging words from Sarah in mind particularly when it might seem like your efforts are, to pardon a pun, just a drop in the ocean.

“The actions you take will make a difference. You have the power to make positive change every single day.”

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