Nelson teenager Sophie Weenink-Smith is on a mission to save the planet, one beach at a time.
The 13-year-old organised a mass rubbish clean-up at Tahunanui Beach on Sunday, which attracted more than 200 people who collected 200kg of rubbish in under two hours.
“At first, I thought about ten people would come, so I am really happy,” Sophie says. “I was amazed at the turn-out. Even people walking their dogs along the beach asked what was happening and wanted to join in.
“It was so cool seeing people of all ages on the beach with their bags, marching like an army.”
The Nelson College for Girls student is also a member of Young Labour and says she wanted to organise a clean-up to celebrate the ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, which came into effect on July 1.
“A lot of people don’t like all the plastic that is going into our oceans, but don’t do anything about it. So, I thought it would be cool to do something amazing like this to unite people,” says Sophie.
There were plenty of cigarette butts, old fireworks, food wrappers, straws, and even an old hair straightener among the collection.
Sophie says, although it can be a challenge to stop using single-use plastics, it’s easy once you get into the habit.
“I’ve a reusable drink bottle and I don’t use plastic straws or Glad Wrap anymore.”
After the clean-up there were hot drinks, a vegetarian sausage sizzle and spot prizes from local businesses.
Sophie says she has already started thinking about her next clean up.
“The next step is more beaches and a river clean-up – maybe five rivers over five days.”