Jennifer Schultz finds a bagful of rubbish along a Gold Coast beach. (Supplied: Jennifer Schultz)
Queensland’s famous Gold Coast beaches may look clean and pristine at first glance, however one local beachcomber says you are more likely to find buried trash than treasure.
- One Gold Coast resident has been removing the litter from local beaches and encouraging others to do the same through Instagram
- Jennifer Schultz has been collecting “whole bags of rubbish” including cigarette butts, food waste, drink containers and used tampons
- The BeachCare project has also been removing litter from Gold Coast beaches including 500kg of rubbish last financial year
Jennifer Schultz from Mermaid Waters said she loved sifting through the sand trying to find unique shells and fossils, but she did not enjoy the volume of rubbish that came with it.
“It shocks me sometimes the amount of trash I’m finding,” she said.
“I walk the rack lines, which is a high tide line, quite often and I just pick up what I see, and sometimes I come back with a whole bag of rubbish.
“I’m looking for shells, fossils, nice things, and to find a cigarette butt, a dog poo bag, a can, lids, straws — it just keeps on going and it’s the whole way up the beach.”
Ms Schultz likes to collects shells and fossils but finds more litter instead.
(Instagram: Jennifer Schultz, gingerlilly8)
Making a difference
Ms Schultz decided to collect and dispose of the rubbish she found along her beach walks. She said it was an easy task as she did not need to go out of her way to do it.
Rubbish on Australian beaches
- Plastic — 35 per cent
- Cigarette butts and miscellaneous rubbish — 24 per cent
- Glass — 13 per cent
- Metals — 12 per cent
- Paper — 8 per cent
- Polystyrene — 6 per cent
- Wood — 1 per cent
- Rubber — 1 per cent
- A total of 69,170 items were found at 140 coastal sites
“If I pick up a few bits and everybody else picks up a few bits, we can all make a difference,” she said.
“It’s only a little dent and it feels so tiny, but I know in the big scheme of things every day that I go out, every step I take, every single thing I see and pick up makes a difference.”
Ms Schultz admitted there was a real “gross factor” to collecting other people’s rubbish, and her mum thought she was “crazy” for collecting some of the more unpleasant items.
“Used tampons, used pads, bandaids, bandages; they’re pretty gross,” she said.
“I do use gloves for picking up things like that.
“Dog poo in bags; if you’re going to take your dog to the beach please take your poo with you.”
Influencing on Instagram
Ms Schultz has taken her war on waste a step further by connecting with other Gold Coast locals and tourists on Instagram through confronting imagery.
Ms Schultz shares photos to Instagram of the collection of rubbish she finds. (Instagram: Jennifer Schultz, gingerlilly8)
Her trashy beach photos are featured heavily in her Instagram photo collection and effectively highlight the large quantity of waste being discarded by beach users.
“If you see an entire pizza box filled with cigarette butts, it makes an impact,” Ms Schultz said.
“I went for a walk and I came back with a bag full of rubbish including cans, bottles, cigarette butts — all the gross things that I didn’t expect to find because I was looking for shells.
“That can make a difference if one person sees that and they go, ‘Oh wow, I can do that too’.
“I might just influence somebody.”
Five hundred kilograms of rubbish
Ms Schultz has not been alone in her mission to clean up Gold Coast beaches.
Over the past 15 years Griffith Centre for Coastal Management and the City of Gold Coast have run the BeachCare community program to conserve and protect the city’s coastline.
Project officer, James Gullison, said last financial year BeachCare volunteers collected 500 kilograms of debris off the dunes.
“The most common items found on the beaches for the year were approximately 6,000 cigarette butts, 3,000 pieces of soft plastic, 1,800 pieces of paper, 1,500 pieces of hard plastic, and 800 pieces of foam,” he said.
Mr Gullison said the program would not have been successful without the many volunteers who have participated.
“Over 1,100 volunteers participated in 40 events during the 2018/19 financial year,” he said.
“Gold Coast residents are passionate about where they live, in particular the many beaches we are fortunate to have in the region.”
Mr Gullison said the BeachCare volunteers noticed the impact of the Queensland Government introducing plastic bag bans and a container refund scheme in 2018.
“Once those bans and legislation came in place there was a noticeable reduction in the number of plastic bags and bottles and cans found on our beaches,” he said.