Plus ça change


After a few weeks away in sunny England I’d expected the drain to look more different when I got back. It looked almost exactly the same as I’d left it at the end of June, though a bit danker and slimier than usual as the sun hasn’t been warm enough to dry a crust on the sludge, and where the litter backs up against any blockage in the beck an unsightly brown froth had developed. Yuk.


Since doing the marine debris workshop, hosted by OCCI, I’ve found it impossible to stop classifying rubbish. Or, at least, trying to classify rubbish. Under which category do I count a home-made cricket ball formed from rolled-up gaffer tape? The Y-shaped plugger part of a thong (minus sole)? The 100 metre-long tape from a video cassette? Bigger objects, such as gym shoes, are easy.


Someone’s been collecting balls, so I haven’t classified them or recycled them. I usually take the soccer balls, hand balls and suchlike  to Hamilton North Public School but not I the tennis balls as they’re prone to gathering a horrible layer of grime around their fuzzy outers. Jambo is unimpressed by them too as their roll, when thrown along the concrete creek bed, is far too dull and predictable; he prefers the jittery unpredictability of a rubbery hand ball. Picky little bugger!


As an aside, there’s a Facebook page about the OCCI clean up held at the end of last month. I was staggered to read that we pulled out “410 straws & confection sticks; 168 bottle lids/tops; 231 plastic food wraps; 145 pieces of hard plastic; 249 soft plastic remnants; 257 foam remnants; 36 foil wrappers & 20 rubber balloons or toys. In total we collected 30.2kg litter from 2 5m stretch in 50 mins!” Holy smoke.

One littery item that’s common in the drain is cigarette packets. I can’t wait for plain-wrapping legislation; I hate seeing these images!


I came across a relative rarity: an aluminium cigar tube. It didn’t have the nasty pictures of dying cancer sufferers on it but it did have a somewhat ambiguous message.


Cigar smoking is not a safe alternative to what? I’d say that it would be a pretty safe alternative to using a needle  found in a public toilet to inject heroin into my eyeball, or having unprotected anal sex in a Thai brothel. But, hey, that’s just me.

The camelia bush down the nightsoil lane has shed blossoms all winter. I do love the contrasting mulch of perfect new blossoms next to the squishy, dead brown ones of yesterday, last week, last month. The kind of thing I’d expect to see in the background of some seventeenth-century Dutch master’s portrait of a successful trader to remind him that death is waiting round the corner.


And on that happy note, I’ll bid you adieu!

Bringing hope to the masses


What, ladies and gentlemen, is this?


Is it: (a) an hilarious toy; (b) a potential death trap for a sea turtle;  (c) a piece of soft, fabric-based marine pollution; or (d) all of the above? Yes. Whatever. It’s part of that thing, an “environmental problem”

The problem with the “environmental problem” is that (unlike the water bomb) it’s so bloody big. And not only is it absolutely humungous, there’s the horrible and distressing knowledge that much of it could be solved in an instant if only THE IDIOTS would listen to us. It’s enough to make you swoon into a funk.

So after you’ve shouted at the internet or the telly because some amalgam of global corporations have once again stomped all over the community’s wishes for <consumer deposit legislation / better urban planning / insert whatever appropriate cause> then it’s useful to gather yourself up and head towards the nearest group of likeminded folk.

This weekend I went to Tighes Hill Public School to learn how to identify litter. No, seriously. Because this is a serious business. The Ocean and Community Care Initiative (OCCI) hosted the morning, supported by the HCRCMA, and introduced about 15 of us to the concept of litter logging. Here we all are, ready to go by the Carrington mangroves.


Litter logging is a system that’s been developed by Tangaroa Blue to quantify the crap, which in our world of bean counters and accountability is a necessary way of countering the arguments that global packaging corporations use to sidestep responsibility for the state of our oceans and waterways. So they gave us bags and gloves and “slates” – rewritable boards with all the different types of litter listed on them. Then, every time we picked up a piece of litter, we logged it on the slate. Every cigarette butt, foam bead, torn piece of plastic wrapping, syringe, water bomb …

Holy Mother of God!!!!

Here’s the editor the OCCI newsletter, about to go insane after logging his 13,915th Minty wrapper before chucking it in the dirt bag.


After 50 minutes we’d picked up, logged and bagged about 50+ kilos of stuff. On recent beach walks these heroes gathered and logged over 500 kilos of rubbish over a 6 km stretch. All the data then goes off to Tangaroa Blue and is entered into their online database. And then we send it off to The Man. In your face, neocapitalist pigs!


It’s one of those tasks that seems just too brain-sappingly large to contemplate, but I know that it has a purpose. And a good one at that. So I’m getting me a kit for the Styx and I’m going to start logging the crap that comes bobbing down the beck. Now, was that water bomb a piece of soft, fabric-based marine pollution, an hilarious toy or a foam death trap?