Beach plastic big disgrace

TOTAL EFFORT: Dave Sharp of Lennox Head spent three days walking from Lennox Head to Tallows Beach collecting 20kgs of washed up rubish.
TOTAL EFFORT: Dave Sharp of Lennox Head spent three days walking from Lennox Head to Tallows Beach collecting 20kgs of washed up rubish. Doug Eaton

AFTER almost three months living alone in coastal NSW wilderness, you would think Dave Sharp would fancy a rest from the outdoors.

Yet barely a month after coming home, the Lennox Head surf instructor felt compelled to go wandering again.

Last week "Walk Away Dave", as he is now popularly known, set out on an overnight "plastic pick-up" walk from Lennox Head to Suffolk Park.

In the 15km walk from Lennox Head to Suffolk, Dave collected 20kg of rubbish. He was forced to stop halfway so that friends could come and collect his load.

Dave's latest trip is a follow-up to something tragic which dominated his 10 weeks in the wilderness.

Originally planning to enjoy one of the most untouched areas in coastal NSW - walking between Forster and Newcastle - he was shocked to find knee-high piles of plastic on beautiful beaches and headlands where there were no roads or people.

"I assumed when I got out there, there wouldn't be plastic - it's probably 25km of coastline that has not one road or footprint on it."

"It brought me to tears. I knew I couldn't leave without picking it all up."

And so Dave's adventure turned into an eight-hour a day mission to collect plastic. After three weeks, the skin on his hands peeled off from chemicals in the plastic, which had leached after extended contact with saltwater.

"I filled two megabins and 12 recycle bins in five weeks by hand, with no car," he said. "I couldn't collect it all - you needed tweezers to get some of it out of the sand."

Sadly, when he returned weeks later after a big swell, just as much rubbish was back.

"That rubbish isn't coming from holidaymakers or fishermen - it's coming from our homes."

After his ordeal, Dave said he felt duty-bound to raise awareness about beach pollution.

"Now I've come home I feel guilty plastic is still washing up on our shores," he said.

Following last week's mini-adventure, he's now hoping to put on regular public rubbish walks along the North Coast.

He also promised to incorporate lessons on plastic pollution into his surf instructing with surf students from around the world.

"I'm never going to stop."

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