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Careless bin act leaves street flooded in mess, prompting angry note

A frustrated resident spoke to Yahoo News as he cleaned up the polystyrene balls on the Sydney street.

Thousands of polystyrene balls have been dumped in front of a Sydney apartment block, angering residents.

Potts Point man Matthew Gerathy first posted about the problem on Facebook on Wednesday night calling for those responsible for the emerging environmental disaster on Billyard Street to clean it up.

On Thursday morning a hot, autumn wind had made the situation worse and Mr Gerathy began cleaning up the mess himself, calling Yahoo News Australia to vent his frustration. “It's not even my street," he said. "They’ve been dumped into the bottom of a garbage bin and the bottom has clearly split wide open. They just seem to have put them into the bin without any bag and they’ve literally spilled everywhere."

Left - polystyrene balls on the ground in front of bins. Right - a note attached to the bin.
Frustrated locals have left an angry note on a bin after it was filled with polystyrene balls. Source: Supplied

A note placed on the bin reveals other locals had attempted to clean up the mess. "Suggest you order a new bin," they wrote.

Polystyrene problem bigger than one bin

While Mr Gerathy is frustrated by the mess on Billyard Street, he describes the situation as “small bickies” when compared to the wider damage the polystyrene balls cause. “Why do these things exist in society? What purpose do they serve in 2023,” he said.

As an open water harbour swimmer, Mr Gerathy knows the damage polystyrene balls cause. Like all plastic products, once disposed of they never disappear, and just continue to break down into smaller pieces. Once in the ecosystem, the particles are eaten by fish, birds and other wildlife and eventually work their way up the food chain into humans, entering our blood and organs.

The bin had been taped back together after cracks appeared in the base. Source: Supplied
The bin had been taped back together after cracks appeared in the base. Source: Supplied

“Surely there’s a better solution than these things for bean bags,” he said. “We’re banning single-use plastics, so why are these things still able to be manufactured?”

Kmart and Big W continue to sell polystyrene balls

While hardware retailer Bunnings is one of a number of stores that sells foam alternatives, polystyrene balls continue to be sold at stores like Kmart or Big W for $11 for a large 100-litre bag.

Big W revealed to Yahoo News Australia on Thursday it is currently working with its supplier to look at "alternate material" for bean bag fill. Kmart has been contacted for comment.

The balls litter many beaches across Australia and are even distributed to remote regions like Lord Howe Island where they are known to kill seabirds like migratory shearwaters.

They are a known issue, with Yahoo News Australia reporting the destruction caused by a dumped bean bag at Pearl Beach. This led to a call for the product to be banned.

Dozens of volunteers, including State Labor MP Liesl Tesch, helped clean up that mess and Saul Deane, a sustainability campaigner at Total Environment Centre, explained plastics often look like food, so are frequently eaten by wildlife.

“So, plastic bags mimic jellyfish and get eaten by birds and whales, straws mimic sea grass and get eaten by turtles, and plastic bottle caps and rings get caught around the necks of birds and fish,” he said.

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