Beach man fights war on litter
FOR almost 40 years, Paul Sterling has picked up rubbish during his daily walks along the Bargara foreshore – and he says he can track the evolution of the nation’s drinking habits by the change in the make-up of the waste.
“It used to be mostly beer bottles,” Mr Sterling said.
“These days it’s more alcopop containers, the stuff that girls drink.”
Whenever he is at his Bargara home, Mr Sterling, 74, makes sure he takes his daily walk along the foreshore, armed with several plastic bags in which to place the debris he picks up.
“If you’re walking on the beach all the time, the rubbish is under your nose all the time,” he said.
Picking up the trash also sends a psychological message to would-be litter louts, Mr Sterling believes.
“If people see rubbish on the beach they have no qualms about dropping more,” he said.
“But people don’t like messing up a pristine beach.
“It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it works about 90% of the time.”
Mr Sterling said apart from drinkers leaving bottles on the beach, the next worst litter offenders seemed to be recreational fishers.
“They don’t seem to mind just dropping their lines, empty bait containers and those little plastic packets hooks come in,” he said.
He also believes his quiet anti-litter campaign is starting to work.
“When I started doing this back in the early 1970s, I would come home with four or five shopping bags of rubbish every day,” he said.
“Now during the week I sometimes come home with half a bag, and most times what I come back with I can carry in my hands.”
But he still gets frustrated when he hears about bad behaviour that leaves the beach in bad condition.
“People told me about Australia Day, when a whole lot of young fellows went mad, broke bottles in the water and absolutely trashed Kelly’s Beach,” he said.
One of the main reasons he was so committed to trying to keep the beaches clean was because it was something tangible he could do to protect the environment, Mr Sterling said.
“There’s nothing I can do about all the development on the foreshore, but I can help keep the beaches clean,” he said.
“I’ll stop when they nail the lid down.”