'Wheels, tyres and a tank': Tourist beach littered with flood debris

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

A popular tourist beach has been left choked with debris after heavy storms across NSW.

Old wheels, a gas bottle and even a fridge could be seen washed up along the sand on Wednesday morning at Patonga, on the NSW Central Coast.

The small coastal town, which has seen an influx of tourists over summer, was quiet today except for a few locals surveying the damage, and taking photographs of a large water tank bobbing close to the shoreline.

An image from before the wild weather in contrast with the beach this morning. Source: Central Coast Council / Michael Dahlstrom
An image from before the wild weather in contrast with (right) the beach this morning. Source: Central Coast Council / Michael Dahlstrom

A local man, Anthony, told Yahoo News Australia that while there have been flooding events affecting the town before, he could see a lot more timber and rubbish than on previous occasions.

"I guess that's just part of life now when we have these sorts of floods," he said.

"The locals have been down doing a bit of cleaning up."

Images of the debris have been shared across social media, with many dismayed at the “mess”.

A water tank and a fridge washed up at Patonga. Source: Michael Dahlstrom
A water tank and a fridge washed up at Patonga. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

“OMG nightmare,” wrote one person.

“That’s terrible,” said another respondent.

Others said they felt sorry for the people living along the Hawkesbury River, which leads into Patonga, who have had their possessions washed away.

Rubbish on our beaches reflects society

Much of the waste caught in the natural debris appeared to be packing foam, with takeaway containers and some fishing gear mixed in.

Microplastics expert Dr Scott Wilson told Yahoo News Australia that while beaches inundated with rubbish across NSW could be cleaned, tiny remnants will remain in the sand and continue to break up into smaller pieces.

Dr Wilson, the research director at the Australian Microplastics Assessment Project (AUSMAP), said his team are documenting the abundance of microplastics on beaches, and they have found large amounts of polystyrene.

While many uses of the substance will be banned by the federal government from the middle of next year, it is so prevalent in our ecosystem that it will likely wash up during flood events for years to come.

Microplastics will likely remain in the sand despite the eventual clean-up. Source: Michael Dahlstrom
Microplastics will likely remain in the sand despite the eventual clean-up. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

Dr Wilson said much can be understood about the products people are using by what washes up on beaches.

“It's a snapshot of what we as a society are doing and using, but also the activities going on in the catchment,” he said.

“For instance if you’re seeing a lot of fishing debris then it tells you there’s quite a bit of that activity going on in that local area.”

Central Coast Council has been contacted for comment.

While Patonga has been impacted by flooding before, some locals have noted more plastic on the beach this year. Source: Michael Dahlstrom
While Patonga has been impacted by flooding before, some locals have noted more plastic on the beach this year. Source: Michael Dahlstrom

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