The K'gari Fraser Island Clean Up Campaign 4/9/21 - 12/9/21
We acknowledge and pay our respects to the first custodians of this land, the Butchulla people. We respect the teachings of Elders past, present and emerging and do our best to live by them in a modern world.
In this article I will be discussing the details of the first KINA K'gari Clean Up Campaign. This campaign was such a success thanks to the our supporters and the 62 volunteers that helped us collect a total of 3,926kg of plastics from 75km of beaches in just 11 days!
At KINA we’d all been busy preparing for our first K'gari Fraser Island Clean Up Campaign. We were all counting down the days until the campaign began before another snap lockdown was announced, which meant most of the team couldn’t make the event. Luckily, I was staying close enough to K’gari to still attend the campaign without breaking any of the lockdown restrictions.
I had never been to K’gari and at that time only knew the island as Fraser Island. It had been high on my list of places to visit for a while as it is the largest sand island on the entire planet and has the only rainforests that grow out of sand, there is an abundance of bioluminescence and wildlife. This island is a natural phenomenon that earned World Heritage listing in 1992.
I arrived at the meeting place in Noosa and was greeted by Hana and Mark, the owners and founders of K’gari Fraser Island Adventures, they introduced me to some of their awesome staff and a handful of the volunteers joining us to collect plastic waste for the K’gari Beach Clean Up Campaign. We all chatted about how we had become involved in the campaign while we packed the cars for the trip.
We set off towards K’gari and drove through the incredible Rainbow Beach and then boarded the ferry that drifted towards the island. After what felt like only ten minutes, we arrived on the island. Apart from several four-wheel drives departing the ferry and the tyre tracks covering most of the visible sand, the island looked untouched and raw. I imagine that most of Australia’s coastlines looked like K’gari before civilisation.
We cruised down the beach and met up with the Ocean Crusaders crew and the rest of the volunteers for lunch on the beach. As the rain clouds rolled in, we ate lunch and began to migrate undercover avoiding the intensifying shower. As we were huddled up and shared shelter, we began to strategize about the most effective way to collect all of the plastic without missing any ground.
We split up into groups and the rain eased on que, as if to encourage us to get on with it. While we drove along the beach, I saw the occasional plastic water bottle but couldn’t help but think that the beaches looked a lot cleaner than I had expected. That thought was short lived as I discovered the never-ending piles of plastic that lay below a light blanket of white sand. It was such a wakeup call to sift through the sand and find pieces of plastic that I instantly recognise from trips to my local grocery store. Seeing the amount of plastic quickly fill our bags just confirmed my beliefs that we must all do much more to counteract the damage being done to our incredible planet.
After completing our first day of clean up we returned to our camp all sweaty, sandy and eager for a warm shower. The campsite was extremely cosy with comfortable cabins and glorious glamping tents. All of which were connected by an elevated timber deck that led out to two large living and dining areas and outside to a grassy area with a fireplace metre from the beach.
I woke up on day two feeling eager for the day to begin. I freshened up and ventured out of my tent to find the others. Everyone was getting up and heading towards the delicious smell coming from the kitchen. I walked in to find a cooked breakfast that the staff had prepared for us while we slept. Everyone beaming with smiles as they sat and ate their first meal for the day.
After filling up on fuel for the big day ahead, we all lathered on sunscreen as we listened to Annika and Ian from Ocean Crusaders teach us about High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and the other different types of plastic and how each type is recycled. We then discussed the plan for the day and split up into groups and set off.
On the way to our destination, we spotted a mother dingo running along the shore. Hana explained that the dingo was a mother that had most likely been in her den with her pups for eight weeks and was setting off to hunt and eat to regain her strength. We must’ve run into the mother dingo on her long journey to find food. Dingoes are known to travel 20 kilometres per day on K’gari.
No matter where you are on K’gari there are always magical surroundings to appreciate. On the way to our beach clean-up spot we enjoyed spectacular views of the colourful sand dunes scattered all over the island, birds skydiving into the ocean to catch food, and whales splashing around in the ocean. As I sat in the backseat of our four-wheel drive mesmerised by the beauty of the island we pulled up at our spot.
Game on! We all eagerly put on our gloves, grabbed our bags and jumped out of the car onto the soft powdery sand. Finding plastic had begun to feel like a game, a race between volunteers or a colourful treasure hunt. I remember looking over to see everyone’s bags filling up as they found more and more trash hidden in the sand, it encouraged me to look harder and cover more ground even when I grew tired.
I definitely experienced a state of flow while I was scanning the sand for plastic, the feeling of extreme concentration due to completely engaging in the activity with my mind and my body, a feeling that was often rudely interrupted by the disappointment of once again mistaking a cuttlefish bone for a piece of white HDPE.
We cleaned our designated zones and headed up take a break and eat some lunch at the most easterly point on K’gari, Indian Head. After finishing our meal, we headed off to check out the Champaign Rock Pools and watched as the waves of the ocean splashed through and over the chiselled rocks into the natural pool below, creating a bubbling waterfall and giving the pools name obvious meaning.
We jumped back in our cars to head towards our next spot to stop and pick up more plastic. The aim was to find as much plastic as possible, especially HDPE because it is the strongest and the easiest to recycle. HDPE is used to make everything from shampoo bottles to food and drink containers. Because this plastic has so many uses, it means that there is a large amount that ends up in our environment. This is why it is so important that individuals align with organisations like KINA, Ocean Crusaders, Zero Co and K’gari Fraser Island Adventure’s that make these campaigns possible.
That night I was so exhausted that I almost went straight to bed. Luckily, I chose to stay up a little longer and sit by the fire with a few people who knew about the bioluminescence. We decided to grab some dingo sticks and head to the beach in search of bioluminescence, which is a luminous glowing glitter emanating from millions of micro marine organisms, usually from an algae bloom of plankton. Delighted by the sight of hundreds of tiny blue lights we jumped and danced around in the shallows and as we walked back along the beach our footprints lit up like the stars in the sky.
The next day we woke up to another delicious breakfast provided by the K’gari Fraser Island Adventure staff and then headed out to sort through all of the plastics we had picked up on the previous days. We separated the shoes, toothbrushes, water bottles, and all the other miscellaneous washed-up trash and then counted and weighed all of it as a team.
As a celebration of our efforts, we got in the cars for a day trip through the rainforest to the pristine Lake Mckenzie (Boorangoora) for a swim. The water at Boorangoora is the clearest turquoise water I have ever seen. It is a must see if travelling to the island! We dried off and headed to Central Station, a glorious sandy rainforest at the very heart of K’gari. We explored a little and then gathered for some hot lunch.
Heading back through the rainforest forest to collect our belongings and head home. I looked out my window at the stunning K’gari and I was hit with a mixture of sadness because I was leaving the island and fulfilment from knowing that I had contributed to keeping K’gari beautiful and the wildlife safe
As I got on the ferry to go home with some of the volunteers the Ocean Crusaders crew headed up to the northern beaches of K’gari to continue the clean-up, while the K’gari Fraser Island Adventure guys got the campsite set up for weekend two!
After all of the effort from all of the volunteers that helped over both
weekend and the awesome Ocean Crusaders who kept going through the week. The K'gari Fraser Island Clean Up Campaign was a massive success. With 62 volunteers we cleaned 75km of beach in 11 days and collected a total of 3,926kg of plastic!
A big thank you to those who donated and those who gave their time and skills to make this campaign so successful! We appreciate your passion and commitment to making Australia plastic neutral.