Plastic waste a big feature in island clean-up

Volunteers collect rubbish at Stewart Island's Mason Bay last week. Photos: Bryce King/RD Petroleum

SEEING mollymawk carcasses containing plastic beads lying on the remote coastline of Stewart Island is motivation for Southern Coastal Charitable Trust volunteers to keep clearing rubbish from such areas.

A recent trip to Stewart Island saw 16 volunteers collect an estimated 28 tonnes of rubbish from Mason Bay at Stewart Island.

Trust co-ordinator Joyce Kolk said the rubbish contained lost fishing gear including fishing bins from as far away as Sydney and South America, as well as domestic rubbish with multiple single-use plastic water bottles and milk bottle caps.

A lot of the plastic was broken up and worn down in the ocean before it was consumed by wildlife.

“They don’t know it’s not food.”

Ms Kolk said she saw about 50 dead mollymawks while out collecting rubbish.

With the carcasses having been probably picked over by rats, it was easy to see the plastic lying with the body.

Each clean-up trip cost about $100,000 and most of the funding came from the fishing industry.

“Our volunteers pay to be there or they are representatives of businesses that have financially supported us,” she said.

The trip to Stewart Island was the second such clean-up this year.

The first was in Fiordland in July, in which 68 fadges of rubbish were collected by 20 volunteers.

In the clean-ups, which have been organised by the trust for the past eight years, volunteers have collected rubbish from some of the most remote parts of the southern coastline.