When Katie’s not keeping beaches from Seven Mile to Sri Lanka clean from rubbish, she’s educating young minds on the values of conservation.
It’s a dedication that has just landed her an award from the NSW Premier’s Office, and soon she will be off to China to look at popular youth culture, the emerging surfing/skateboarding culture and sustainability initiatives.
In addition to removing beach debris, the data collected from the clean up assists in improving the environment, Katie says.
‘A lot of the marine debris we find up on our northern beaches in Australia has washed down from Asia,’ she says, ‘which is why engaging with community and students over in China will be so important.’
Apart from visiting organic farms and socially sustainable enterprises, Katie will examine the Chinese government’s Green Fence Policy initiative.
‘China’s Green Fence Policy is about the Chinese saying “no” to the Western world’s plastic waste that they have been taking on for years’, she says.
‘This is making countries like the USA and Australia look at being more responsible for their own waste, rather then sending it offshore.
‘China has also emerged from being the worst with their product packaging laws to now being the leaders.
‘They are forcing multinational companies to reduce their layers of packaging.
‘For example, Nestlé uses nine layers with their products, but will now have to reduce this to two layers – or leave China.
‘The Chinese increase in wealth has meant they are dealing with higher amounts of local waste and just don’t have the capacity for the rest of the word’s waste any more.
Leaders in waste management
‘Unfortunately, most western countries’ response – including Australia – is to not develop more ways to deal with their own plastic and e-waste, but to look for willing countries such as Indonesia and African countries to send it away to. Most Australians don’t even know this.’
Locally, she has been involved with schools who have also taken part in beach cleanup activities. Recently, TV Network 10 program Totally Wild came to film her with NGO groups and local schools cleaning up a section of Seven Mile Beach.
‘It was a collaboration between seven different youth groups,’ she says, ‘the Uncle Project, Kookaburra Culture School, MerPod, Cape Byron Steiner School, Southern Cross School, students from Bangalow Primary School and Tangaroa Blue.’
Her overall aim is about connection, she says.
‘We are all connected to each other and we are all part of the problem and solution for our global health.
‘It’s about giving our young people positive links to each other beyond our own backyard and to encourage global thinking to go with local action.’
Another boost to her Premier’s Award application was that she helps provide youth with access to quality Chinese language programs, which are offered through Southern Cross distance education.
‘The government support will help give all young people in the region access to Chinese culture and language programs that they can study as single subjects through their local schools. In the future, I hope to take kids from our region to China.
‘Both cultures have a lot to understand about each other.’