It is a common misconception that much of the litter found in our oceans and washed up on our beaches is from overseas sources, however extensive research conducted by CSIRO has shown that 3 quarters of the litter on our coasts is from Australian sources. They also found that the origin of most ocean litter is from human deposition – i.e. people who dispose of their litter inadequately, and that the second largest source of ocean litter is transport by waterways. These two sources are inextricably linked because in urban settings when litter – especially thin plastics - is left on the ground, or escapes from a poorly covered rubbish bin, it can be transported via wind and storm water drains into our urban waterways.
Urban creeks and rivers that flow out to the coast can act as litter superhighways, transporting rubbish out to sea where it either gets washed back to shore or floats on the surface, eventually breaking down into smaller and smaller particles potentially causing harm to marine life and sea birds.
With over 85 % of Australians living within 50km of the coast, the pressure on our urban waterways is huge and as urban development grows, this pressure will only increase. Many of our urban waterways are experiencing poor water quality and high litter loads. In the four year period between 2014 and 2017, 179 tonnes of litter was removed from the Yarra River, and this included 1.29 million cigarette butts from the River and its mouth at Port Phillip Bay. This equates to approximately 30kg of litter per person living in the Melbourne Metro area!
Whilst #SeaToSource is focussed on the major rivers in our capital cities, we are currently developing a program of clean-up activities on many of our smaller urban creeks and rivers in these cities too, so keep an eye on The Campfire and our socials for opportunities to get involved.
In the meantime, there are things you can do at home to reduce the impact of litter in urban waterways:
- Make your daily walk good for your health and for the environment, by downloading the Litter Stopper app and carrying out a clean-up of your local street, or beach.
- Help us create a national snapshot of community clean-ups by mapping your clean-up activities
- Say no to single use plastics wherever possible. Read this blog for some hints and tips.
- Dispose of your rubbish responsibly
- Put your ideas out there to inspire others, by entering our anti-litter poster competition