Founded by power couple Nat Woods and Dan Smith, the Clean Coast Collective have long been our inspiration and have recently become our companions in this plight to save the planet. We asked them to talk trash with us over a latte or two.

Read on to get to know these two game-changing pioneers of the Waste Awareness movement.



1. Tell us about how and why you founded the Clean Coast Collective. What was the pivotal moment you decided to turn this concept into a community?

Dan and I were spending a lot of time on the far south coast of NSW hiking into remote stretches of coastline every weekend. We were searching for secluded spots far away from the crowds, but instead we kept coming across traces of society in the form of plastics and debris washed up on to the coastline. We would gather everything we found and lug it back to our cars. It struck us that we didn't know where this rubbish was coming from, so we started doing some research and it was then that we had our 'A Ha'... or rather 'Oh sh*t' moment – we realised that plastic and pollution was plaguing the oceans and beaches we loved, and were shocked that we, avid surfers, didn't know about it.

So we scrambled together a name, a hand drawn logo and launched on social media. It was our way to feel like we were contributing and our way to share our new knowledge with our surfing community.


2. The 'Trash Tribe’ is the name of the expeditions you embark on to remove rubbish and debris from our coast. What do you do with the rubbish collected and what are some of the key results you have achieved through this program?

Our Trash Tribe expeditions are our key conservation project – we take groups of young, creative and passionate individuals from different towns and walks of life on an adventure to clean up Australia's most remote and most polluted beaches. The last two expeditions have been to Chilli Beach in Cape York Peninsula – we've removed 3.1 tonnes and 7 tonnes of pollution off this one beach on those two expeditions. It's shocking, but satisfying at the end of the week. 

The rubbish is sorted and recorded for the Australian Marine Debris Initiative, a national database that tracks what pollution is washing up on our beaches and where it's coming from. The database is key to stopping this pollution at the source.

Each Tribe member also creates their own project when they return to share their experience with their peers – some write articles for magazines, some create art, and some host events. In this way, the expedition doesn't just positively impact the behaviour of the 10 tribe members, but creates this ripple effect in communities all across Australia.


3. Where does the rubbish come from and how would you suggest we make changes in our society to improve the situation? 

The rubbish comes from all over the world! Chilli Beach sits at the northern tip of Australia so much of what we find is from Asia and the Pacific Islands, but we also get things from other places around Australia. One thing is certainly clear – this is a global issue and we are all responsible for being part of it in some way. And while we're focussed on ocean pollution, something that we have become acutely aware of is that even if our rubbish isn't going into the oceans or environment, it still has to go somewhere – and where is that 'somewhere'? In our landfills which are reaching capacity?

We could continue to clean beaches for the rest of our lives, but the only thing that is ever going to stop this problem is by stopping plastics and pollution at the source. Plastic is an incredibly durable material – it's designed to be so – but we treat it as though it is disposable. That straw in your smoothie, that's going to outlive you because plastic never biodegrades, it photodegrades, meaning that it continues to break down into tinier and tinier pieces.

This is all very doom and gloom, but the positive thing is that we CAN do something! We can each reduce the plastics we use everyday – switch your plastic straw for a reusable one, use beauty products that don't come packaged in plastics, and choose products made from natural materials. Remember the first two R's are Reduce and Reuse – focus on those two and you've got it covered.


4. Through your imagery, branding and language you inspire change in our generation - making it cool to care. Tell us about the campaigns you have done and why they've been so effective at communicating with our peers.

Haha we try to make it cool to care, that's good to know that our 'cool' factor is on point! We're like everyone else – we like to buy nice things, we like to feel trendy, and we don't like feeling guilty or depressed about the state of our world (it can be a horrible place when you focus on all the negative!). So we try to create campaigns that speak to our generation – campaigns that tap into what's trendy and in fashion. And at the end of the day, why can't something with an environmental message look sleek and stylish? In fact, it must look sleek and stylish if it's going to compete against brands that don't give two hoots about the planet.

Basically we just do campaigns that look and feel like other imagery around at the time – our castaway campaign was created at a time when lots of marketing was around the boho/beachy theme, and our latest campaign features all the pastel colours that are trending now (#millennialpink). I think strong and poignant environmental campaigns, such as the stuff that WWF and PETA do, has a place and does create impact – but we would prefer people to be drawn to an image first, and then realise the message behind it second.

5. What are your future plans with the CCC? And how can people get involved?


In 2018 we'll be focussing on expanding our Trash Tribe expeditions to new locations, and building on our range of lifestyle products that help people move away from plastics. If anyone is interested in joining the Trash Tribe, they should sign-up to our mailing list so they're notified when applications open. And of course, we always encourage people to grab some plastic-free products from us if they're not already kitted out!


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