No butts on beaches
23 July 2019

No butts on beaches

No butts about it, cigarettes are making the ocean sick, with toxins poisoning aquatic eco systems and filters killing sea birds and fish. But these vulnerable creatures have a champion. Or rather, an army of them.

Shoulder to shoulder Adopt a Spot volunteers protect Onkaparinga’s coast, from Sellicks to O’Sullivan Beach. Adopters may work alone, or have a handful of helpers, but together they form a line of defense before butt litter enters the Gulf St Vincent to become deadly decoys for seabirds and fish.

“Cigarette butts float so birds and fish assume they are edible,” says Chris Lemar, Adopt a Spot co-founder [pictured]. “Butts are made from plastic so they don’t break down in the digestive system; they stay in their stomachs so there’s limited space for nutrition and then they become weak and die.”

Chris, together with Carly Lynch, established Adopt a Spot in 2017 after Clean Up Australia Day brought together like-minded people who wanted to protect the region’s marine ecosystems and wildlife.

Last year alone, the volunteers intercepted 110,000 butts from washing or blowing into the Gulf. That’s not a guesstimate, that is the actual number of butts documented and photographed by adopters.

Other butt facts: they leach carcinogens into water causing marine deaths; they are the most littered item in the world; they have caused an environmental catastrophe. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

No butts on beaches

Responsible disposal of butts won’t completely solve the problem, but it will go a long way towards minimising it, Chris says, and through collaboration with KESAB, the state government and the City of Onkaparinga, 63 marine-grade stainless steel butt bins have been installed across Onkaparinga’s foreshore, with a higher concentration along the nationally recognised Mid Coast Surfing Reserve.

“The deal is that the designated adopter cares for their bin,” Chris explains. “We empty them, clean them, do a butt count for KESAB, and pick up every bit of litter in the area — every straw, plastic cutlery, all of it.”

Commending the Adopt a Spot initiative, Onkaparinga council’s Recycling Education Officer Lynda Wedding says: “It’s unfortunate that some people don’t do the right thing but there are a lot of these amazing people out there going above and beyond, and if we had more people like this, the world could only be a better place.”

Adopt a Spot started in Onkaparinga, followed by an impressive uptake statewide, with volunteers caring for 92 spots from Goolwa Beach to the tip of Yorke Peninsula. But there are gaps. If you would like to adopt a spot — be it coastal, parks or reserves — volunteer, or participate in a community clean up, get in touch through Adopt a Spot Facebook. Or click here for more about waste management.

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