Hundreds of plastic drinking straws pulled from popular Sydney beach by 'strawkelers'

In recent years we've seen the push to ban plastic shopping bags and for increased use of reusable coffee cups. Now there are moves to do away with plastic drinking straws.

The Last Straw is a campaign encouraging consumers to stop using the harmful plastic disposables known to harm marine life and litter our waterways.

In Manly on Sydney's harbour, a group of people have taken up "strawkeling" to fish plastic straws out of the water.

Harriet Spark started the operation to help the wildlife. Source: Sunrise
Harriet Spark started the operation to help the wildlife. Source: Sunrise

It started with a single snorkeler who collected more than 300 straws in just 20 minutes from the popular swimming spot. Now, a small group of volunteers go strawkeling every Saturday morning.

Dive enthusiast and organiser of the event Harriet Spark said they usually get about 300 to 400 straws in a dive.

"Yesterday we picked out 178," Ms Spark told Sunrise.

"For us that is quite a small amount. Usually we get about 300 to 400 plastic straws. It was a small amount but it was still is under 200."

Ms Spark said the project began after her friend randomly collected 300 straws in 20 minutes one day during a dive.

A group of people get together weekly to collect straws. Source: Channel 7
A group of people get together weekly to collect straws. Source: Channel 7

"Last year one of my close friends and I always went snorkelling in this area because it is beautiful and home to penguins and sea turtles and seahorses as well. It's a beautiful site," she said.

"We regularly snorkel here and one day one of my friends collected 300 straws in just under 20 minutes. The next day, she collected another couple of hundred.

"The next day I jumped in and collected about 150. This was just on three consecutive days. So I thought, how we could be collected three months? And then operation straw was born."

Ms Spark said since the program's inception, the group have collected about 1400 straws.

"There are about 800 we have here and over the program so far we have collected over 1400, which is huge," she said. "When you think about the fact that 2.9 billion are used in Australia every year, this is just a tiny fraction of what could end up in our oceans."

A video of an octopus emerged showing four straws in its tentacles. Source: Channel 7
A video of an octopus emerged showing four straws in its tentacles. Source: Channel 7

Ms Spark said the message is "sip, not suck".

"Your back plastic doesn't break down for hundreds of years and actually doesn't ever break down and it actually breaks up into smaller pieces.

"It is being digested and ingested by a beach for marine creatures Lexie turtles, seals, dolphins and we did see an octopus that was holding for straws in four of its tentacles. When you see wildlife interacting with plastic like that it is very confronting and it shows you the impact it is having."

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