Wellington woman takes on mission of cleaning entire coastline

A Wellington woman has taken beach clean-ups to the next level.

In August last year, Melissa Lieser reached her goal of removing 1000kg of rubbish from beaches.

Now she has a new goal.

“In order to just see some new places, and give myself a little bit of a challenge, I decided that I would start cleaning the entire coastline of Wellington,” she said.

Over the next couple of weeks, she will be walking 33km to clean up every beach from Ōwhiro Bay to Oriental Bay.

She opened her Instagram account, ‘Clean Where You Walk’, in 2018, when she was still living in the United States.

“I would come home and complain after walking my kids to school about how dirty my neighbourhood was,” she said.

“My husband said, ‘Why don’t you just pick it up then?’

“I thought, well, that’s a great idea, so I started cleaning up once a week on my walk home from dropping my kids off at school and documenting it on social media.”

Since then, she has garnered thousands of followers.

“I was able to find two or 3000 other people around the world doing the same thing – whether it’s trails, or beaches, or streets – it has become this really cool social project, and social media for good, which is nice.”

Lieser continued when she moved to New Zealand a year later.

“When I moved to Wellington, I decided with the vast amount of beaches that we have, my efforts would probably be best concentrated there, so I have been cleaning beaches once or twice a week for the last five years or so.”

Wellington has more litter than any other region, according to Sustainable Coastlines, the charity behind New Zealand’s only beach, freshwater and storm water litter monitoring programme.

Chief executive Josh Borthwick said on average, there were 552 pieces of litter per 1000m2 in Wellington.

“And what we find is, the national average of all beaches around the country is about 308 pieces of litter,” he said.

Sustainable Coastlines had a goal to reduce the amount of rubbish along the country’s coastline by 60 percent in six years, which was why people like Lieser were so important, Borthwick said.

“It’s so good what she’s doing,” he said.

“It’s an amazing engagement tool, it always surprises me how many people aren’t aware of the impact of what we call leakage – when bins get collected, things flow out, they end up in the storm water system, and then out into the ocean.

“So, what she’s doing is really highlighting the variety of things that end up on our beaches.”

It can also help Sustainable Coastlines with its data, which the government uses to inform policy decisions, Borthwick said.

“Some of those plastic bans that have happened recently, that’s the result of the government looking at that data, and seeing what some of the most impactful plastics are that are turning up in the environment, and looking to resolve those as quickly as possible.”

After Lieser has completed her goal, she has just one more… to no longer need to do it again.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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