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Love Your River And Get Involved With Palmy’s Plastic Pollution Challenge

The recent lockdown gave many of us some extra time to get out and enjoy a walk or ride alongside the Manawatū river. The river is a key part of our city and it flows through all of us. It is our treasure, our taonga, and we need to care for it, to ensure that our awa flourishes for generations to come. Litter has no place in our river, but unfortunately there is more in there than you would expect to find. By working together, it is one environmental issue that we can all help to solve.

Now that lockdown is over, Palmy’s Plastic Pollution Challenge (PPPC) is inviting everyone that has a love for the Manawatū river to join them and to get involved in 2020. PPPC is holding a “Be part of positive change in 2020!” Event at 5.00pm on Tuesday 7 July in the City Library and all are welcome to attend (koha appreciated). Come along to watch a movie and to learn more about the challenge to date, the plans for the next 12 months and the opportunities to help out. Additionally, to coincide with Plastic Free July, PPPC is running a competition for under 18s to reduce the plastic in their lunchboxes (more information on website below) and will be sharing tips and tricks to help reduce your waste during July via the PPPC social media pages.

Event info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1180438995628112/ #palmylunchboxchallenge: https://enm.org.nz/plasticchallenge/palmylunchboxchallenge

Palmy’s Plastic Pollution Challenge (PPPC) was set up in 2019 to understand the scale of plastic pollution going into the Manawatū river via our urban streams and to use this knowledge to improve the health of our local waterways. The challenge is a collaboration between Manawatū River Source to Sea (an entity of Environment Network Manawatū (ENM)), Massey University's Zero Waste Academy, Rangitāne o Manawatū and Palmerston North City Council. Te Kāuru Eastern Manawatū River Hapū Collective in Dannevirke and RECAP in Ashhurst joined challenges in 2020. A wide range of school children, students, community members, companies, council staff and academics have been involved to date.

Last year’s pilot phase was eye-opening and life-enhancing for all involved, whilst also being physically challenging at times and just a little bit wet and dirty! Over 1,000 people engaged with the challenge in 2019. During this first phase of sampling 11,163 pieces of litter were fished out of 41 randomly selected 100 square metre sections of Palmerston North's urban streams. After collection, these were cleaned, dried, sorted and measured by Palmy’s citizen scientists to establish a baseline of the plastics currently lingering in our streams. By engaging the public in data collection, sorting and solution formation a diverse range of people got a hands-on opportunity to learn about the scientific method used and increase their awareness of plastic pollution in our own back yard.

Building on the success of 2019’s work, the PPPC team are happy to announce the start of phase 2 of the challenge. “We were raring to get back in the streams in March 2020 but, as for many people, the lockdown led to a rethink of the plan for 2020!” says Heike Schiele, Co-Chair of Environment Network Manawatu.

“With the move to Level 1, we’re now ready to launch phase 2. The main litter collection events will be in the spring and summer time, when the water levels are at their lowest, but there is plenty that we can be getting on with in preparation during the winter.”

“We’re really excited by what’s coming up in 2020 and 2021”, says Heather Knox, the newly appointed PPPC Co-ordinator. “What the challenge achieved in 2019, on a shoe-string budget, is really quite outstanding and provides a fantastic foundation to build on. Over the next year, we’re extending the PPPC sampling to include stormwater, we’ll be getting back in the Palmy streams, plus we’re expanding the challenge to Feilding”.

Heather and Heike are keen to encourage any individuals, schools or businesses that are interested in doing some good in their neighbourhood and having a positive local environmental impact to get in touch.

Especially those based along Te Kawau Stream, which runs through Highbury. “During our 2019 sampling, of all the 41 sites, we found the most plastic in Te Kawau Stream”, Heike explains. “We’ve pledged to clean up the majority of the stream in this next phase of the challenge and many hands make light work. We find that there is a really positive atmosphere at our clean-up events and everyone leaves feeling like they’ve made a difference. It’s a great thing to know that by simply removing litter from a stream you’ve improved our waterways and could be saving the lives of our precious Aotearoa bugs, fish, birds and marine animals further downstream.”

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