Jake fishes scrap metal from Melbourne’s waterways with magnets. It helped him recover from drug addiction

Jake Robson reached a point in his addiction recovery when he needed a productive distraction.

“I had a lot of downtime and needed to fill that void,” he says.

Mr Robson had served time in prison and was in the early stages of his recovery when he came across YouTube videos of people removing scrap metal from rivers and docks using magnets attached to rope.

He quickly bought his own gear and now goes magnet fishing several times a week to clean up Melbourne’s waterways.

“I learned a lot from society in my life,” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of bad things, and this is my little way of giving back.

“It took me away from all that downtime, where I used to fill it with negative things – drug addiction and things like that. It gave me a new lease on life, where I can spend this time much more wisely.”

Jake Robson sees cleaning up waterways as a way to give back to society.(ABC News)

The father-of-three, who works as a shopkeeper, said the hobby has also helped him reconnect with family and friends.

He takes his 13-year-old son, Hayden, with him on fishing expeditions and has already started teaching his three-year-old son to pick up spoons and forks with magnets.

His friend Travis Carra, who also has a history of drug addiction and criminal charges, saw Mr Robson transform.

“He’s a lot happier, you can see he’s focused on something, and he’s lost a lot of stress as well,” Mr Carra said.

Two men stand on a river promenade in front of the city.
Jake Robson introduced his friend Travis Carra to the hobby.(ABC News: Isabella Tolhurst)

Mr. Carra also became addicted to the hobby.

“I find it very therapeutic… hanging out with a mate, both sober, throwing the magnet in the water, seeing what we can achieve, bonding [with each other] and stuff like that,” he said.

“And also doing the right thing at the same time, cleaning up, removing the litter, the toxic metal from the water.

“It’s kind of giving back that little bit, for everything I’ve done in the past.”

A little help can go a long way

Mr Robson can remove hundreds of kilograms of scrap metal from Melbourne’s waterways every week, collecting everything from e-bikes to shopping carts to fish hooks.

Parks Victoria runs its own river clean-up programs, dredging trash and debris into the Yarra River with trash traps.

So far this year, he has collected more than 100 electric bicycles and scooters, about 40 carts and more than a dozen tables and chairs.

A rusty cart on a river walk.
Magnetic fishers find all manner of metal objects in Melbourne’s waterways.(ABC News: Isabella Tolhurst)

It does not have specific data for scrap metal.

But Mr Robson thinks that if enough people take up the hobby, they could have a significant impact on cleanup efforts.

“We had a bike today in two hours. If we had 10 people here doing it and they all found a bike, that would be 10 bikes a day,” he said.

The community-run Yarra Riverkeeper Association said volunteers like Mr Robson were always needed.

“There are only a limited number of people employed to clean up the river, and especially as a community organization we rely very heavily on volunteers and they are always welcome to get involved,” Anthony said. Despotelli of the association.

“Many hands do light work.”

A rusty bicycle on a walk.
It takes two people about two hours to pull a bike from the river.(ABC News: Isabella Tolhurst)

Mr Despotellis said plastics were the worst contributor to river pollution.

“We find that plastics as a general category is one of the most littered items,” he said.

“When we organize clean-ups and community days, that is what we are targeting.

“We are still finding carts and bikes dumped in the river. The message is very simple, leave it where you found it, put it back. It doesn’t have to be in the river.”

And while Mr Despotellis said magnet fishing is often best left to professionals, he said amateurs can make a difference.

“If you’re removing material that shouldn’t be in the river, then you’re helping the water,” he said.

Proceeds will go to addiction charities

Scrap metal can be sold at scrap metal dealers for cash, fetching about $150 per ton.

But Mr. Robson has no intention of pocketing the money. Instead, he wants to continue the good deed.

He plans to donate all the money generated from scrap metal to charities for drug addicts.

“I’m looking to help some treatment services with people in difficulty who might benefit from the funding,” he said.

“I’m not about making money, it’s about cleaning up the waterways and helping out.”

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