What is Operation Straw?
STRAWkle Sesh has been a popular event created by the STRAWkle Squad (a group of enthusiastic beach cleaners) who have gone out every Saturday in Summer to clean up Manly Cove since 2017. The project was started up by Sustainable Organisations of Manly (SO Manly) and Grumpy Turtle Designs. The STRAWkle Squad encourages volunteer divers and snorkelers to conduct underwater cleanups around Manly to record the number and type of straws they have collected. Now this information can be used by our citizen science initiative, AUSMAP. Operation Straw is collaborating with AUSMAP on Operation Straw’s macro and microplastic session called Operation Straw: Micro STRAWkle.
The first collaborative event was held 2nd of June on the day of Winter, with keen STRAWklers defying the cold to convene on the Manly Art Gallery for a presentation from AUSMAP followed by some STRAWkling, and morning tea provided by Ruby Lane.
After the talk from Dr Michelle Blewitt (AUSMAP’s Program Director) and Dr Scott Wilson (AUSMAP’s resident research scientist), the STRAWklers got stuck into it. The water was a nippy and conditions windy for diving for straws, but finding microplastics went ahead and boy, there were a lot of them in the water!
One STRAWkler on his Instagram said: “I always knew there was a lot of plastic on our beaches but until you use accurate measures of extraction you cannot fathom how bad it is!”
When you pick out the bits of microplastics individually, it really does give you a sense of the enormity of this pollution crisis. Because these bits of plastic are so small, it’s not something that people often see and think about, but every small piece is detrimental to our wildlife.
Thank you to all the STRAWklers for coming to AUSMAP’s collaboration with Operation Straw. It was great that you rugged up and braved the weather to help us clean up Manly Cove of straws and other macroplastics. You also helped AUSMAP put valuable research data on microplastics into our database.
Written by: Naomi Huynh (volunteer of AUSMAP)
Photos: Program Director, Dr Michelle Blewitt