A coastal NSW council has created a litter clean-up program, which has seen more than 140,000 volunteers collect more than 13 million items of marine debris.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council and the community have been cleaning up the area’s coastlines, which extend 110km from South Durras to Wallaga Lake.
Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Heidi Thomson shared the collaborated efforts of the community and council at the Litter Congress 2019 in Sydney.
She highlighted that all of the activities outlined were implemented with minimal funds and coordinated by an Environmental Education Officer employed for 15 hours per week.
There are 83 beaches and many estuaries, lake and lagoons among the areas cleaned by the public since a program was developed in 2014, in partnership with Tangaroa Blue.
The population of Eurobodalla Shire is about 40 000, but Thomson highlighted that over the summer months this triples, bringing extra pressure and extra litter to the coast.
Data collected by the council since 2014 has been used to create a national database for recording scientific data on the types and amounts of marine debris being collected across the country.
In addition to this, in 2018 an app was developed that allows users to record information directly onto the database with a smart phone.
More than 140,000 volunteers have used the program and the recorded data helps the council and Tangaroa Blue see common problem items that are littered as well as the location and time.
“For example, we record the colour of the bags which tells us where the bag comes from. We know certain supermarkets used to have grey bags, the butchers have blue bags and some of the boutique bags have a business name on them.
“Often promotional balloons are found. Debris with identification on it is forwarded onto Tangaroa Blue who then follow up by contacting those businesses. Often the businesses are shocked to hear that their balloons or other items have become marine debris and drifted so far,” Thomson said.
An example from collections at McLeods Creek, showed the top 10 items collected at that site have been plastic film remnants; plastic packaging food wraps and packets; foam insulation and packaging; fishing line; straws, confection sticks, plates, cups and cutlery; plastic bits; aluminium cans; plastic supermarket bags, dog poo and ice; glass beer stubbies and pre-mixed alcohol bottles; and plastic vehicle parts.
Several clean-up initiatives are in place to deal with the pollution, including the Marine Debris Working Group has been created for clean ups after storm events.
They also help to promote clean-ups and the database and have assisted to create a brand labelled ‘I’m part of the solution’. School students who undertake a clean-up can bring in a t-shirt to upcycle with a screenprint.
Since 2014 other achievements from the recording of data have included a ban on releasing balloons at council events or reserves, a campaign that encourages restaurants and cafes to serve tap water, and 30 new drinking water stations in the town.