Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Statistics about plastics in the Georges River

CVA volunteers conduct a litter audit from rubbish cleaned up along Georges River
CVA volunteers conduct a litter audit from rubbish cleaned up along Georges River
Conservation Volunteers Australia

#SeaToSource, a Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) initiative supported by Georges Riverkeeper, is helping to act on one of the world’s most solvable environmental issues – ocean litter. Plastic makes up the majority of the litter in our waterways and oceans, causing a wide range of environmental issues.

Ocean litter can make its way into our rivers and waterways through many different pathways, including through people littering (either deliberately or accidentally), or by items being flushed through our stormwater or sewage systems.

This program looks at the source of ocean litter in our rivers and creeks, and is aiming to gauge the extent of the problem and help to clean it up.

CVA litter statistics FY 20-21

Between September 2020 and June 2021, CVA has hosted 23 clean up events in the Georges River catchment, removing 690 kg of litter. Boundless thanks to the 190 volunteers who contributed 760 hours to help rid our waterways of this pollution.

As part of the project, CVA has been auditing a subsample of litter collected from each of the clean ups.This involved counting and sorting the litter they collected using (and contributing to) the Australian Marine Debris Initiative developed by Tangaroa Blue.

In total, since September last year, they have counted 24,712 pieces of litter! Most of these items were plastic (94%).

The most common things littered were:

  1. Hard plastic fragments
  2. Soft plastic film remnants
  3. Foam insulation and packing
  4. Plastic lids and tops
  5. Plastic food packaging
  6. Plastic utensils (straws, cutlery, cups)
  7. Fishing line
  8. Foam cups, food packs and trays
  9. Cigarette butts
  10. Plastic wrap (non food)

Hard and soft plastic remnants, which take out the first and second spots of the top 10 items, are small pieces of plastic that have broken apart from larger pieces of plastic. Sunlight, movement from waves and even animals attempting to consume plastic items, can all cause plastic to fragment and break apart. These plastic fragments can numerous issues for marine life, most notably via ingestion.

Hard plastic remnants
Soft plastic remnants

Recently, CVA have partnered with CSIRO to help collect data to form a national snapshot of how much litter is in our environment. This will be achieved through field surveys that document the distribution of plastic and other litter on land, beaches, coastlines and in our waterways.

Due to unpredictable nature of the COVID outbreak CVA have currently suspended in-person volunteering until further notice. Once the NSW Government eases restrictions and the CVA safety team deems it safe to resume volunteering, clean ups in the Georges River catchment will continue. Keep an eye on their website (scroll down to see events in NSW). 

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government.