Why not 'Adopt a Spot' to preserve our coastline?

Cleaning the community: Adopt a Spot volunteer Kevin Howard begins his regular cleanup along Franklin Parade, Encounter Bay.
Cleaning the community: Adopt a Spot volunteer Kevin Howard begins his regular cleanup along Franklin Parade, Encounter Bay.

Are you passionate about preserving the coastline and protecting wildlife from harmful waste and litter? Then why not consider 'adopting a spot' as part of a growing, volunteer conservation effort.

The 'Adopt a Spot Scheme' allows individuals and groups to adopt a portion of a local coastline or waterway and regularly collect rubbish to ensure it remains clean, while contributing important data for the better management of waste in the area.

Co-founded by Chris Lemar and Carly Lynch in 2017, Adopt a Spot has grown to cover portions of coastlines and waterways right across South Australia.

Once a volunteer signs up, they are assigned an area where they perform regular litter collections. When complete, a photograph of the collected waste is provided to Adopt a Spot and statistics on waste levels are then recorded and shared on the group's Facebook page which currently has more than 1900 members.

Mr Lemar, who is a committee member of the Mid Coast Surfing Reserve, said the scheme was a great way to get involved in conservation.

"We currently have 151 spots covered throughout the state. Virtually from the 19th Beacon at Goolwa we have adopters right around to Rincon Beach in Venus Bay, but obviously with plenty of gaps along the way," he said.

"The whole idea is that the adopter takes up a spot, does their cleans regularly, logs their cleans and we do the stats for them and include their stats in the group's totals. From there, people have the data to go to local councils and highlight any issues in their area.

"Every bit of rubbish we pick up is photographed and listed before being posted to our Facebook page. All the details are on each photograph, so it's easy for anyone who wants to do some research to see what's happening in a particular area."

Cigarette butts are the most common item collected by adopters and the group has so far removed more than 105,000 butts from the environment.

In 2020 alone, Adopt a Spot volunteers collected over 4800kg of waste and spent 3840.9 hours combing the coastline, equating to $160,133 in volunteer hours.

Kevin Howard is a local adopter who regularly cleans a portion of beach between the Yilki Store and the Bluff Boat Ramp.

"As a retiree I find this a very fulfilling task. If you are going to stay active and go on a walk, you can make a difference and pick up some rubbish as you go," Kevin said.

"Myself and a lot of people do already pick up rubbish, but joining a scheme like this provides extra motivation and allows you to contribute as part of a greater cause.

"There is no pressure, I usually do a 45 minute clean from the Yilki shops to the boat ramp every 10 days. I would do the walk regardless and it's very satisfying to know you have left the area better than you found it."

Deadly pollutants: One of Kevin Howard's recent waste collections from the coastline between the Yilki Store and the Bluff Boat Ramp at Encounter Bay. Photo: Supplied.

Deadly pollutants: One of Kevin Howard's recent waste collections from the coastline between the Yilki Store and the Bluff Boat Ramp at Encounter Bay. Photo: Supplied.

Currently, Kevin is one of the only adopters working within the Victor Harbor township, where there is a real need for greater waste collection, especially during the holiday period.

A team of Investigator College students dubbed the "Eco Heroes" by teacher Stephanie Gurner cover an area close by the school campus, but either side of the coastline from Kevin is up for grabs.

"We are absolutely looking for more people down south to join, especially within Victor Harbor," Mr Lemar said.

"You can adopt a spot and have more than one person in your team. We have quite a few husband and wife pairs as well as families, community groups and schools.

"We previously had five adopters within Victor Harbor, but now most of the work is done by Kevin, who can only cover one spot.

"Virtually from the Yilki Store east to Port Elliot and in the opposite direction from the Bluff around to Petrel Cove are free for people to adopt a spot.

"If people don't know each other we can divide spots up. The Yilki Store to the Inman River exit for example is one we would probably split up due to its size."

While the coastline from Port Elliot to Goolwa currently has a number of adopters, Mr Lemar said there was also a need for more work there, considering a growing influx of waste.

"A particularly bad spot at the moment where the data we have on rubbish has quadrupled is Horseshoe Bay. The area has been hit particularly hard this summer, worse than ever before," he said.

"A lot of the rubbish isn't from Horseshoe Bay itself, but has washed in due to the southerly, south-easterly weather pattern we have had through summer, where anything that washes out along Goolwa Beach goes out with the tide before ending up at Horseshoe Bay.

"Cigarette butts are our number one identifiable item... but our biggest item is definitely small pieces of plastic that have broken off and we don't know where they came from.

"Soft plastics packaging and fast food containers are also a massive problem. They either blow in or come in via the storm water system after a big rain, wash out into the ocean for a few years and with the currents, tides and winds wash up at different spots across the coastline."

Kevin said he would encourage anyone interested to get on board and adopt a spot.

"From travelling overseas, it is tragic to see that many places have so much litter that it has become an accepted part of the environment... I would hate to see that happen on the south coast," Kevin said.

"Everyone should be aware of the issue of pollution in our oceans, especially with plastics. To me, the coast represents the front-line. It is highly likely that any rubbish on the coast or waterways will end up in the sea."

More information can be found on the Adopt a Spot Scheme Facebook Page via: facebook.com/adoptaspotscheme or by emailing: adoptaspotscheme@gmail.com

"You don't have to be on Facebook to be a part of the scheme. You can log your cleans via email, and we will then manage your photos and stats to be posted onto the page," Mr Lemar said.

"People are welcome to select a spot that best suits them. If you only want to do 100 metres of beach that's fine and that's your spot. We just pick two landmarks, say the Whale Centre to the beach volleyball courts and we'll then fill in the gaps as more people come along.