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This tour is cleaning up Sydney Harbour, one kayak at a time

The 'Clean Up Kayak' waste collection tours are likely to collect 200 kg of rubbish and discarded plastic this month

Kayakers on a 'Clean Up Kayak' tour paddle near the Sydney Harbour Bridge while helping to collect rubbish and plastic from the water in Sydney, Australia, on 10 February, 2021. (REUTERS)

Arming each participant with a paddle, bucket, sieve and picker stick, 'Clean Up Kayak' is a tour of Australia's Sydney Harbour with a difference.

The sole objective, says founder Laura Stone, is to clear rubbish from the harbour - and business is thriving.

"We've been quite surprised, even through the pandemic, we've been very busy," Stone said. "Because they can't travel, people are looking for something to do, that is not just good for them, but also good for the environment."

Stone began the tours several years ago after noticing the rubbish littering the waters while on other group tours and kayaking lessons run by her organisation. "Eventually we decided to do some dedicated clean-up paddles," she said, adding that there are four or five such tours each week.

While the harbour is less polluted than some other waterways, Stone said the tours are likely to collect 200 kg (441 pounds) of rubbish this month, mostly discarded plastic packaging.

That is just a fraction of the estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic that the United Nations Environment Programme estimates to enter the ocean globally each year, hitting marine wildlife and clogging waterways.

By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum showed in 2016. The ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025. According to the study, titled The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking The Future of Plastics, estimates show that plastic packaging -- which includes items such as plastic bottles, bags and containers -- represents the major share of the 8 million tonnes of plastics that leak into the ocean every year.

Clean-ups may not be glamorous, but the tour is popular with first-timers and regulars alike. "Every little bit is worth it," said Julie Greening, a keen kayaker, who has done more than 10 tours.

"We're seven billion people on this planet, so everyone does a little, but of course it's going to help," she told Reuters. "It's got to."

(Reporting by James Redmayne; Editing by Karishma Singh for Reuters)

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