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Byron Shire
April 25, 2024

Plastic Free Boy’s call to action for 2021

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Arlian with mum, Karin, and rubbish picked up from Main Beach. Photo supplied

Arlian, aka Plastic Free Boy

By way of an introduction for the people new to the Shire, or who do not know me: I am 14-years-old, born in Byron Bay, have been making films to educate people about the problems of, and solutions, to plastic pollution.

It all started on my 11th birthday on the Main Beach, as I witnessed the release of three rehabilitated sea turtles back into the ocean.

I found out about how plastic kills millions of marine animals, and with the help of my mum Karin, who is a professional filmmaker, we embarked on a journey to help save the ocean from plastic pollution.

For the past four years, I have been showing our film to over 800,000 students in schools in Australia and overseas, I’ve spoken at different events such as the 2019 Asia Pacific Cities Summit and Mayor’s Forum.

I became Clean Up Australia Day Youth Ambassador, as well as World Clean Up Day Ambassador and was nominated with the Green Globe Awards and a Department of Education Student Award.

Last year, my mum and I started a new film called Plan B, which offers solutions for how to save the coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef.

Consumer habits

I have been living in Byron Bay my whole life and it’s home to over 9,000 people.

Every year, two million people visit our beautiful Shire to enjoy a number of different things: cafes and restaurants and, of course, the beach.

For the last four years, I have been witnessing the catastrophic impact that consumer habits have on the environment.

As I started my project ‘Plastic Free Boy’ on my eleventh birthday, my education has been a lot around the threat plastic pollution has on our oceans and marine life.

Every single day, 1.7 million disposable coffee cups are used in Australia.

I see them in the ocean on my (almost daily) swims out to the local reef, just off Main Beach.

There, I take joy in watching the local habitat and wildlife. I know where the sharks sleep, connect with the local turtles, and swim with the local schools of fish.

Run-offs from storm

After the big storm, I went to see how they all were doing. Right before my eyes, I witnessed the devastation the run-offs from our shore had on the reef.

With hardly any fish left, feeling very sad and depressed, I swam with a Hawkesbury turtle.

Everything was covered with increased sediments, nutrients, and pesticides, which were being carried to shore and out to sea.

These can cause a range of impacts, including higher algal growth, a build-up of pollutants in sediments and marine species, reduced light and smothered corals.

The coastal zones, especially areas close to river mouths, are particularly exposed to this run-off.

Phytoplankton, bacteria, and benthic organisms quickly take up dissolved inorganic nutrients from seawater.

However, high levels over a long time can create ecological changes, as well as metabolic changes in most marine plants and animals.

So on Christmas Day, when my mum and I saw the devastation, we did a 1.5 hour clean up on Byron Bay Main Beach, Apex Park.

Christmas Day devastation

After we saw the devastation, trash everywhere, like after a huge party, cigarette butts just everywhere; they were the worst. Then there’s bottle caps, wrapping papers, etc.

We cleaned up the whole area, which yielded quite a few kilos.

We felt good about it.

At first, I did not want to clean up after other people.

Honestly, who wants to voluntarily clean up after other people, who just drop their trash and don’t care?

There is resistance. But then I got into it because after all, it is not about other people.

My mum got me to think about that. It is about what I want to do and what I believe in.

And people really appreciated it. I saw some people starting to help, and others said, ‘thank you’ to me and my mum.

We saw others not putting their butts in the grass, but taking it with them.

Also, I just feel relieved that none of this trash will end up in the ocean, or a turtle’s or bird’s stomach.

Especially as the ocean just started to look less dirty after the last big storm’s debris run off into the ocean.

Eco-tour: call to action for our home, Byron Bay

Plastic Free Boy invites families and visitors to join him on an eco-tour.

He says, ‘I want to share some important information about the environment that makes Byron Bay the iconic place it is’.

‘Why? Because I feel it is time to give back. To care for nature, the way it cares for us. And my part is to share knowledge of what precious gift we are receiving by just being here. What the trees are and what they do for us. What the ocean holds and what it does for us. If we understand more about how much we need a thriving environment around us, then I hope, maybe people will join me in giving back, restoring, and caretaking.

‘Hey, and it is fun! I will also talk about the history of Byron Bay, including highlights about the lighthouse.

‘For more information on dates, please send me an email at [email protected]’.

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