"The kids were both excited and horrified," said Parkland School teacher Megan Wilson about her class' involvement in Plastic Challenge clean-ups.
Parkland School has taken groups of students out on a stream clean-up in both 2019 and 2021, as part of the Plastic Challenge organised by Manawatū River Source to Sea, which is part of Environment Manawatū.
"We took four classes and 30 adults to clean sections of the Napier Rd storm drain both times and ended up cleaning the entire drain.
"They learned a lot about stormwater and how rubbish ends up in the drain. As a result adults and kids who attend sport games now take the time to pick up rubbish they see around the grounds."
She said her class, room 7, has looked at the changes council made to the recycling and they have done a lunch box audit.
"It is really disappointing to find styrofoam and cling film in the stream within weeks of a clean-up. We are looking at how we can get businesses to take better care so these items do not blow off their yards and into the stream.
"The children understand how precious the environment is and that it needs care," she said.
Eels have been spotted in the drain, six at one time, and the children found an eel skeleton during one of the clean-ups.
Schools and businesses have taken part in the Plastic Challenge over the years and all have seen benefits to taking part.
Plastic in streams is a real issue in the Manawatū. A high school project highlighted the issue five years ago. Since then others have taken on the challenge and turned it into a bit of 'citizen-scientist' programme. Since then several schools and businesses have taken it on and hold regular clean-ups.
"They measure the litter and establish what type of litter they find," said Manawatū River Source to Sea coordinator Nelson Harper.
"A lot of plastics comes from the streets and through the drains into streams and ultimately into the Manawatū River and the estuary and then the ocean."
He is looking for more groups of people willing to take charge of a particular stream or even a stretch of a stream and do a clean-up on a regular basis.
"Each clean-up generates tens of kilos of rubbish, including appliances, metal scrap, vacuum cleaners, cars parts, trolleys and TVs."
He said he is looking forward to a time when all rubbish is disposed of correctly. He is behind a submission to council regarding container recycling.
He spent a few years already working in waste minimisation and is trying to find ways to deal with materials a council cannot process, such as bread tags and reels from electrical wires.
While Palmerston North can recycle fat, cooking oils, car oils and e-waste, there is still much they cannot handle, such as pallet wrap and cling film.
Environment Manawatū, based on Cuba St, takes bottle caps, electrical reels and bread tags, which are used to fund other charities such as KidsCan.
"We also have seeds people can have and we have garden tools available."
At Moana, New Zealand's Palmerston North site staff explored the connection between health, work and the environment and this ultimately led to involvement with clean-ups.
"During 2021 we explored our way through the different areas of the Māori Health Model (Te Whare Tapa Wha) and how it applies to each of us and how it fits in with our values at Moana NZ through our Wellbeing Programme (Hikoi ki te Ora) at Moana," said Karla Janse van Rensburg, the company's operations support administrator.
"Through Taha Hinengaro we needed to make that connection, when taha hinengareo is strong we can better cope with the ups and downs of life which was important to through the start of Covid.
"We had our first stream clean-up session during March 2021.
"We now want to become involved with clean-ups in the Napier drain section between Napier Rd and the confluence with the Manawatū is down the road from us and the wastewater that runs off from where we are situated runs off into this section.
"This is an ideal section for us to get involved in the restoration and caring for our environment.
"Parkland School is very engaged in this section as well and there could be some good synergies coming out of this collaboration and it also gives us an opportunity to be more visible in our community and environment.
"We have installed the first Litta Trap on our site and will be installing another two or three as soon as we return to site in April 2022. This waste will be tracked and monitored, and the information given through to the Plastic Pollution Challenge Group.
"We would like our clean-up process to include our site, our street and then to branch out to our immediate surroundings and all the way down to the Manawatū River."
This year Environment Manawatu, of which Source to Sea is part, will hold four clean-up events.
"We plan to organise tours on e-scooters to show people the streams and explain their history and ecology."
A number of organisations network with Environment Manawatū and are involved in the Plastic Challenge: 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.
Each site is about 100m2 and all litter is sorted into categories, 114 of them, counted, weighed and put in a database. This helps identify hotspots where rubbish accumulates.
Events still coming up: Saturday, April 16 10am-12pm Mangaone stream behind the racecourse. Saturday, April 30 12-2pm Te Kawau stream (Renfrew Place to Highbury Av) Sunday, May 1 10am-12pm Tui Park.