Disturbing reality behind these two photos of rubbish taken three years apart

Those responsible have been slammed as just 'using and abusing' the environment around them.

Two images from below an overpass in north Queensland taken three years apart reveal the devastating truth of what happens to rubbish that’s dumped illegally.

Dave Dudley, who runs the Tidy Up Townsville, says three years ago he spotted about three garbage bags of domestic waste that “someone had tossed over the edge of the Kalynda overpass and down onto the rocks near the creek line”.

“I cleaned up a majority of it but I just couldn’t get all of it at the time,” he told Yahoo News. “I thought I’ll just leave it to see if anyone actually comes to clean it up. But they never did.”

Dave Dudley's Facebook post from three years ago (let) and the Google map location of where it was found (right).
Three years ago, Dave Dudley from the Tidy Up Townsville Group posted about the rubbish he spotted underneath the Kalynda overpass in Townsville. Source: Facebook

Last week Dudley went back to the scene of the crime, leaving the road and climbing down underneath the overpass.

“It's all degraded now, but the hard plastics remain,” he explained. “Like the kids' toys and the plastic lids and just that real hard plastic stuff. That just sits there and never degrades, or takes a bloody long time. While all the soft plastics — like plastic bags and the milk bottles and the things that break down quickly with the sun — are all degraded now into microplastics, and there’s still a fair bit there of all the paper and cardboard waste.”

Dudley said his photos are a reminder of what happens when people dump rubbish illegally. “This stuff does not go away,” he said. “Then you get one pile and you get another pile up on it and before you know, you're knee deep in rubbish and waste that will never disappear.

“It doesn't disappear and this ends up in our waterways. It’s everywhere. And it's part of our lives now, unfortunately.”

The rubbish featuring take away packages and children's toys.
The mess Dudley discovered in 2020 which included children's toys and nappies. Source: Facebook

He slammed those responsible as selfish. “I think the ones that do all this dumping are just so self-centred. They don't care about anything but themselves. They don’t care about the environment. They‘ve got their own sphere of concern which is them and probably their immediate others. But anything outside of that is just use and abuse.”

Rise of rubbish rescuers

But not all Aussies are as inconsiderate, and Dudley is leading the charge when it comes to picking up after others.

A year ago, the coordinator of the Tidy Up Townsville Group launched a competition to get the wider community involved in rubbish collection.

“I deal with illegal dumping and a whole heap of issues, but I got sick of just the litter and the rubbish around,” Dudley said. “So I ran a competition over the last 12 months for people to go out and bag a bag of rubbish.”

The rubbish scattered along rocks in Townsville.
Dudley popped down for another look at the rubbish last week to find that plenty of the trash still remained where it was dumped three years ago. Source: Facebook

All people had to do was post their collection to the organisation’s Facebook group and then they would go into the draw for a $100 voucher supplied by local businesses. “There’s photos of people out there in their kayaks now going down the river and collecting rubbish in the river and coming back and posting it up onto the group. There’s people out there every week posting a picture of rubbish they've collected from a beach or look out. There are really a lot of people starting to get involved.”

While the competition has been a success, with “dozens and dozens” of locals taking part, Dudley said it’s a message he’d like to send to all Aussies.

“When you're walking the dog or going out for a drive and you see something on the side of the road, just bag it up and stick it in your own bin,” he said. “It would make a massive difference.

The truth about trash

It’s no secret that Australia has a plastics problem with Aussies consuming 3.5 million tonnes of plastic each year, according to the Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, while devastatingly 130,000 tonnes of this leaks into the marine environment.

It’s a tragic end for items that could take anywhere from a few hours to a few years to break down, or, simply, they’ll never disappear.

Ute Roessner, a Biosciences professor from the Australian National University told Yahoo News Australia that the amount of times things take to break down depends on the material they are made of.

“So if it's anything that degrades and decomposes then it might go away over time. But then of course you also have to question, even if it's decomposed, what does it decompose into and are the breakdown products toxic and going into our waterways, impacting on wildlife and even humans?”

The answer is yes.

“They’ve now actually created a new word for a disease that wildlife is getting from plastic intake,” Professor Roessner said, explaining that plasticosis - a form of fibrotic scarring of the digestive tract caused by small pieces of plastics - is being found in birds.

“Particularly birds who pick up a lot of plastic rubbish and then it gets stuck in their stomach and can create a lot of issues not just because it's a physical problem, but also then it slowly decomposes in the stomach, meaning you have all these toxic microplastics in the bird.”

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