A Sydney diving instructor shocked by the amount of plastic straws discovered underwater has taken it upon herself to tackle the ongoing problem of plastic pollution.
For 26-year-old Harriet Spark, from Manly, the huge threat to marine life dawned on her when she found an octopus on the seabed clutching at several straws with its tentacles.
But it was several months prior that she decided to do something about the contamination of Manly Cove's waters after a routine dive with a colleague.
"The project was initially sparked by myself and a colleague going for a dive," she told Yahoo7 News.
"The first time my friend jumped in she noticed the amount of straws and managed to pick up 300 of them."
"The next day she jumped in and got 250 straws. The third day I jumped in and got 150."
After pulling out 700 in just three dives, the pair wanted to see what they could retrieve in three months.
Spark decided to set up Operation Straw where she encouraged volunteers to join her on scheduled dives to retrieve as many straws from a 200 by 30 metre stretch along Manly Cove.
The operation, in partnership with Sustainable Organisations of Manly, has since been a roaring success, with thousands of straws retrieved over six dives as dozens of volunteers gave up their time to help the cause.
"The project is going really well but its definitely highlighting the problem thats there," Spark said.
"The octopus incident only acted as further encouragement to do something about it."
Spark is passionate about collecting data on the straws as she says they won't be able tackle the problem effectively without it.
"Straws are a huge problem - they can stay for thousands of years in the water."
And the group has been working closely with local businesses to reduce the risk to marine life.
Spark said some local cafes were now focused on using biodegradable straws while Hemmingways cafe had introduced reusable metal straws to avoid waste.
She urges anyone not to excessively use straws and other plastic items and to be careful when disposing of them, especially near the water.