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An interview with Clean Coast Collective

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

Interview Questions from Peace, Love & Vegetables

PLV: What is your favourite way to start your day? CCC: Our favourite way to start the day is with a few peeling waves on the logs, followed by coffee and croissants in the sun at our co-working studio The Corner Palm. However more often than not we sleep in and our mornings start with muesli, coffee and chats about what’s on the agenda for the day. PLV: What inspired you to start Clean Coast Collective and your Trash Tribe Trips, is this your 2nd or 3rd? CCC: The inspiration for Clean Coast Collective came during our coastal hikes on the NSW far south coast. We used these hikes to escape the crowds, however we started noticing more rubbish along these isolated sections of coastline than in the more urban areas. That’s when we found out about the issue of marine debris and its damaging impact on our coastlines. So we started Clean Coast Collective, bought a Troopy and set off on a journey around the entire Australian coastline with the hope of cleaning as many beaches as possible and meeting other people and organisations working on plastic pollution.

All was going great until we hit the beaches along the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. The amount of rubbish along these beaches is overwhelming and we felt completely shattered. We filled every bag we had and piled our Troopy with as much rubbish as possible, yet we had barely scratched the surface of what was laying along these beaches. That’s when we decided we needed to get together a bunch of young people to help us and we came up with the Trash Tribe – expeditions to remote areas of the coastline to clean up pollution and have a wild adventure at the same time. The latest Trash Tribe trip was our second expedition to Chilli Beach.

PLV: How do you select your tribe and beach clean up location? CCC: The Trash Tribe is based on an application process. Each Trash Tribe member is required to pitch a project idea that will allow them to share the experiences and data from the clean ups within their communities. We look for people and projects that reach far beyond the regular environmental space. This year we took graphic designers, economists, musicians, photographers and school teachers and we’re super excited to see how they will all share their experiences from the trip. The last two clean up expeditions have been at Chilli Beach. Another marine debris organisation called Tangaroa Blue have been cleaning this beach for a number of years and it’s one of the worst in the Cape so w like to give them as much support as possible. It’s also an incredibly beautiful beach situated in the Iron Range National Park. Many of the plants and species found there aren’t found anywhere else in Australia – many of the species found in the region can only be found in Papua New Guinea, so it’s an ecologically significant area. Otherwise we generally plan our expeditions based on locations that are known to attract large amounts of plastic waste – this can be due to factors such as coastal orientation and proximity to ocean currents, trade winds and shipping channels. Our next expedition is planned for the Abrolhos Islands which are located in line with Geraldton, roughly 60 kilometres off the Western Australian Coastline. PLV: You have recently come back from your latest expedition. Can you tell us about that? (if you can share facts/figures that would be great!). CCC: The latest expedition was an absolutely mammoth effort in collaboration with Tangaroa Blue and Conservation Volunteers Australia. Over five days we removed 7,001 kilograms of rubbish from a 6.7 kilometre stretch of beach. This included 1,009 cigarette lighters, 2,279 toothbrushes, 3,325 plastic drink bottles and 3,204 plastic bleach bottles.

PLV: Any concerning and/or positive trends that you noticed from the type of rubbish you collected this trip vs previous trips? CCC: The normal offenders were definitely still over represented in our latest expedition – plastic remnants (plastic items that have broken down into fragments and can no longer be identified), plastic bottles and thongs. One concerning trend is plastic bottle lids, we find thousands. Plastic lids are made from a more durable plastic than the bottle itself, so the bottles are breaking down into smaller pieces quicker than the lids themselves – the lids signify just how many bottles are in the ocean, we just weren’t quick enough to remove them.

PLV: How can we inspire the younger generations in becoming more aware of the issues? CCC: We believe the younger generations are inspired by being shown the beauty of the world and feeling empowered to make changes. Our aim at Clean Coast Collective is to show people that living with less plastic actually enhances your life. Regardless of whether you surf, love turtles or live no where near the beach, avoiding plastic will benefit you. You’ll eat less processed food, be more grateful of what you have and look way cooler while you’re at it!

Similarly, our beach clean up expeditions are far more than just cleaning beaches – you form close bonds with a crew of other amazing people and leave feeling energised to tackle whatever else you’ve got happening in your life. The younger generations are ready to be inspired but we’ll never inspire them by telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need to focus our attention on making environmental choices appear desirable.

PLV: Any plans for future beach cleans and how can the community get involved?

CCC: In addition to our Abrolhos Island clean up in WA, we’ve got a number of small-scale clean up expeditions planned for nearby sections of the coastline over the next couple of months. The community can get involved by getting in touch with us on any of our socials or popping in for a chat at The Corner Palm. We’re also always open to collaborations so welcome people reaching out to chat about any ideas they’ve got brewing!

PLV: What are some of the innovative brands that are doing some good things with reducing plastics in their businesses?

CCC: The Sociable Weavera sustainable building company based in Melbourne that seriously minimise the amount of waste created during the construction process. They also have an initiative with us to remove 300 kilograms of rubbish each year. (Full disclosure: Nat also works for them).

Stone & Wood – our local Byron Bay Brewery has gone to great lengths to reduce landfill waste at their events and is about to trial a reusable cup system at one of their upcoming events. They’ve also provided us with an amazing amount of support.

Santos Organicsthis organic grocery store and cafe has recently eliminated takeaway cups at their stores. They also kick-started Plastic Free Byron with funding to get their initiatives rolling to eliminate single use plastics from the Byron Shire.

And of course, we are huge fans of all the Peace Love & Vegetables products – the sauerkraut jars are the best jars to reuse and fill-up at the bulk food stores!

PLV: What’s next for Clean Coast Collective?

CCC: We’re in the process of growing our business so that we can fund multiple beach cleanup expeditions each year. We’re also exploring partnerships with larger businesses that will allow us to reduce the plastic waste they generate.

Since the beginning, a big focus for us has been creating a not-for-profit model that didn’t rely entirely on grants. We want to show that you can contribute to making a positive change in the world and also run a successful business at the same time – they no longer need to be separate things. So we’re always striving towards self-sufficiency with this in mind.

PLV: What does the world need more of? CCC: More emphasis on giving and less emphasis on greed. As a society, we need to re-assess what it means to be ‘successful’ – so often it’s all about money and growth. This is fine, but how can we make money but also create positive impact for our communities and our environment? At the end of the day, you’re going to be remembered for the impact you had in the world – not for how many social media followers you had or a six figure sum in your bank account.

PLV: What does Community mean to you?

CCC: Community is about support and the absence of greed. Support those around you and you will find that there is no end to the people who go out of their way to support you.

PLV: What Inspires You?

We’re inspired by businesses and people who are striving to improve the world and have built this into their regular lifestyles. Making a positive contribution to the world shouldn’t have to be all about sacrifice and suffering.

Credits: Trash Tribe Images: Emma Scott. THE CASTAWAY Images: Sally Mustang, Ming Nomchong, Grant Tyrrell, Alice Roberts, Phoebe Barrett, and featuring Camp Cove Swim, Brahminy Exchange and YCL Jewels. Clean Coast Life Images: Jessie & Jones (photography / film); Cass Anderson (styling); Lyndel Miller (food styling); Phoebe Barrett (hair & makeup); Chloe Slattery(muse). Clothing, jewels and accessories by Celeste Tesoriero, St Agni, YCL Jewels.

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