A volunteer waste-removal group has criticised brands including Vodafone, MinkPink and Miss Chu for polluting Sydney’s Bondi Beach with promotional material over the summer.
Responsible Runners, a local community clean-up group based in Bondi, today told B&T these brands were the main offenders, littering Sydney’s legendary beach with handouts and freebies over the silly season.
Vodafone distributed red branded cardboard beach chairs to beachgoers for the first three days of the Vodafone Test cricket, enabling seaside viewers to watch the game via a ‘live site’ screen.
But dozens of these chairs were subsequently left on the sand, despite Vodafone’s own clean-up efforts.
“We found a lot of those all over the place – this weekend was particularly bad,” said Justin Bonsey, founder of Responsible Runners.
“Citibank did it a while back too at the Breakfast on Bondi event and we had to call an emergency waste removal.”
Youth clothing brand MinkPink has been handing out oversize, inflatable orange sunglasses while Vietnamese restaurant chain Miss Chu has been distributing branded, plastic beach balls to beachgoers, many of which end up in the ocean.
“It’s a pretty bad call on Miss Chu’s part,” said Bonsey. “They don’t really need to get into these gimmicks. We’ve found at least a dozen of these on the beach this weekend and some people reported finding them floating out at sea an entire suburb away.”
Energy drink promoters are also giving the organisation grief, with hundreds of cans pulled off the sand every week, while event promoters from entertainment companies like Sollarium Entertainment and Pacha Sydney have littered the sand with flyers.
“It’s irresponsible for brands to be marketing themselves like this,” said Bonsey. “I think there should definitely be oversight as to the kinds of things that are handed out, first and foremost whether something is handed out at all, knowing that the majority of it is going to be left on the sand and wash out to the ocean.”
But it’s not just freebies which are turning Bondi in a seaside tip. A buck in discarded packaging from fast food joints located by the beach, including McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and Oportos, is also giving the Responsible Runners grief.
According to Bonsey, the McDonald’s cardboard red chip packets are serial offenders. Coated in wax and lined with plastic they are notoriously difficult to break down, making them more environmentally hazardous than the packaging used by Oporto’s, which is majority paper.
But the organization isn’t calling for boycotts of these brands just yet. Its priority is to educate and inform the guilty corporations in the hope that they change their marketing methods by choice.
“We prefer to contact these brands and try to work with them and let them know before boycotting them. I think a lot of companies don’t recognise the crisis that we are experiencing here in Bondi with the rubbish and the crisis of plastic pollution in the ocean.
“We are never adversarial – we want to encourage positive engagement at every step of the way because if you keep it positive then everyone of the companies becomes a potential ally.”