The problem of marine debris and litter
Marine debris directly threatens the health and survival of marine animals in Quandamooka (Moreton Bay) through entanglement and ingestion. Plastic litter is particularly problematic as it can take hundreds – even thousands – of years to fully break down and accumulates in the environment over time.
Plastic never really disappears – it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, which are easily consumed by marine animals. When these animals then get eaten by larger ones, the microplastics they ingest build up (bioaccumulate) through the food chain.
It is estimated there is over 150 billion tonnes of plastics in the world’s oceans with an additional 8 million tonnes entering the oceans every year. Over 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources, either swept into the ocean along the coast or carried into the sea via stormwater drains and waterways. The other 20% comes from rubbish disposed of at sea from marine vessels.
You can be involved by participating in Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday 6th March. Join one of the many events held throughout South East Queensland or register your own at: https://www.cleanup.org.au/
|Joining the fight against marine debris in Moreton Bay
Healthy Land and Water and Ocean Crusaders are working together to tackle the build-up of debris and litter threatening water quality and marine life across Quandamooka (Moreton Bay). So far, over 70 tonnes of marine debris have been removed across more than 250 hectares within the internationally recognised Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland site, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
How you can help
You can make a difference by disposing of your waste properly and picking up litter so it doesn’t have a chance to enter our waterways or oceans. There are also a range of simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of waste you are producing to begin with.
Here are some things you can do to at home and on-the-go to reduce marine debris:
|Your choices at the shops can have a big impact on the amount and type of waste your household produces. Where possible, try to avoid products with excess or unnecessary packaging. Bring your own reusable fruit and vegetable bags to the supermarket, along with your general grocery bags. If it’s an item you buy often, opt for the larger version instead of buying smaller or single-serve containers.
When you can, choose items made from natural materials or fibres (e.g. wood, bamboo, cotton) and avoid products that contain microbeads such as facial scrubs, toothpastes and body wash. For products like clothing, homewares, toys and furniture, consider thrifting or buying second-hand. There’s also the option to hire rather than buy items you use infrequently or will only need once.
What we choose to buy – and choose not to buy – sends a message to companies about what we want as consumers. By supporting sustainable and eco-friendly products and practices, we can help reduce the demand for materials that are sources of marine debris.
|Around 70% of all marine debris is made of plastic, with many of these items only ever being used once before being discarded. Replacing single-use plastics – such as straws, coffee cups, drink bottles, food containers, cutlery and grocery bags – with reusable versions can help reduce your plastic footprint.|
|Remember the 3 Ps – only pee, poo, and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. Wet wipes (even ones labelled ‘flushable’), cotton buds, dental floss and sanitary products do not break down in the sewer system and can make their way into the marine environment, damaging habitat and endangering marine life.
|Put all rubbish into the appropriate bins and never leave it next to or on top of an overflowing bin. If you can’t find anywhere to put your rubbish, hold onto it until you find a bin or take it home with you. If safe to do so, pick up any litter you come across and properly dispose of it. Take care when disposing of your PPE – any masks, wipes and latex gloves should go in the trash and not the recycling bin.
|Give used, broken or damaged items a second life through repairing or repurposing them around the home. If you can, try to buy good quality items that are less likely to break and are able to be repaired if something goes wrong. Remember to take time to maintain the things you already have and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure a long life for your products.
|The most recent Australian statistics show that only around 9% of our plastic waste is currently being recycled. We can – and need to – do better. But knowing exactly what can and can’t be recycled and how to go about isn’t always obvious. The first thing you need to do is look for the Australasian Recycling Label to identify if an item can be recycled or not. Generally, all firm and flexible plastic containers (e.g. food and drink containers and bottles, empty cleaning and personal care product containers, disposable plates and cups) can go into your recycling bin at home. All soft plastics (e.g. plastic bags, straws, cling wrap, food packaging, bubble wrap, styrofoam and polystyrene) can be returned to major supermarkets for recycling. For more information, visit your local council’s website.
|Sign petitions or write to your local member about reducing waste in your area and support bans on single-use plastics.
|There are a lot of good resources available to find out more about how you can make an impact to reduce marine debris. Don’t forget to share what you learn with your friends and family and encourage them to join in too!
|Take part in local clean up events and collect data on what you find. Join your local catchment care group to find out how you can get involved.
Participate in a Clean Up Australia Day event near you on Sunday 6th March. Find local events or register your own here: https://www.cleanup.org.au/
This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.