Clean Up Program

1999 - Present
South East Queensland

Our Team


Healthy Land and Water has been operating a Clean Up program in catchments across South East Queensland (SEQ) since 1999. Our Clean Up crew collects floating and bank-bound litter from our waterways, removing the waste before it flows out into Moreton Bay where it can do untold harm to our marine wildlife and ecosystems. The program is a popular and highly-successful example of local government, community, and industry coming together to address the scourge of plastic pollution so we can protect our world-class waterways and marine environments.

Despite our best efforts, marine debris is still considered to be one of the most serious threats facing oceans, coastal areas and beaches both here in SEQ and throughout the world. That’s why Healthy Land and Water is committed to working alongside community, government, industry and business in a collective effort to address this growing problem.

Once the waste has been collected, we work with our research, government and community partners to analyse and categorise the litter so we can better understand how, why and when litter is entering our waterways and oceans. We can then use the data to inform our prevention efforts and how we can stop litter at the source.

Check out the video below to find out more about the program!

Want to learn more?

For more details on the program and to delve into the data, check out the 2018/2019 Clean Up Program Annual Report.

Download the Report


This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water, through funding from the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration Fund.

  • In the 2017/2018 financial year, the Clean Up crew removed almost 75,000 pieces of litter from South East Queensland waterways
  • In 2017/2018 financial year, the total amount of litter removed from SEQ waterways totalled 16 tonnes
  • In the 2017/2018 financial year, the Clean Up crew removed an average of 34 pieces of rubbish from SEQ waterways every hour
  • In the 2017/2018 financial year, the most common items removed from the river were plastic bottles (22% of all litter removed), food wrapping (17%), polystyrene (14%) and plastic pieces (13%).

Marine litter is one of the most serious threats facing oceans, coastal areas and rivers worldwide. Litter ending up in waterways can travel long distances with the currents and winds, and constantly washes onto beaches, gets caught in fishing nets, damages boat motors, looks terrible and smells bad. Tragically, marine animals and fish often mistake floating cigarette butts and plastic pieces for food, and many die or get sick after swallowing it. Birds can easily entangle themselves in plastic six-pack rings and strings, and metal scraps and broken glass can cut the flesh of birds and other animals.

Not only is litter terrible for marine environments, but it can also have a severe impact on the economy as well. A 2014 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) study pointed to the significant impact of ocean plastic on maritime natural capital. It was estimated that the annual damage of plastics to marine ecosystems is at least US$13 billion per year. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) also estimated that the cost of marine plastic pollution to the tourism, fishing and shipping industries was US$1.3 billion in the region.

In South East Queensland, where waterway recreation is central to our lifestyle, the potential impacts of litter could be severe. South East Queensland waterways are estimated to provide over $10 billion per year to the region’s economy through tourism, recreation, drinking water supply and fishing, and those figures will only increase in the years ahead. By 2031, the population is expected to reach around 4 million people – an increase of more than one million people over a decade. Today, more than 50 per cent of people live in urban areas, and by 2050, this proportion is expected to grow to 70 per cent. Population growth and associated development are a major threat to our waterways and increased population growth, particularly within our urban areas will increase waterway litter pollution loads.

Thankfully, our research indicates tackling the litter problem is important to the community. In 2018, Healthy Land and Water’s Environmental Health Monitoring Program found litter is the number one concern to South East Queensland residents when they were asked what impacts their enjoyment of local waterways. Litter is a highly visible form of environmental degradation and is a topic that remains high on the public agenda.

The Queensland state government has a vision to create a state free from litter and illegal dumping—driven by the adoption of best practice in waste management and education. Healthy Land and Water believes that the Clean Up Program, now in its 20th year, plays a crucial role in achieving that vision.


The Clean Up Program would not be possible without the generous help of our funding partners. The Clean Up Program is supported by federal, state and local governments and private industry, and their supports ensure the program can continue to function and keep South East Queensland’s waterways clean. In the 2018/2019 financial year, the program is supported by:

Want to get involved?

Supporting the Clean Up Program is a wonderful way of showcasing your commitment to improving waterway health in South East Queensland. If you’d like to help fund the Clean Up Program or support our program in another way, contact Healthy Land and Water Senior Scientist Rachael Nasplezes at or by phone on 0459 213 477.


This project received funding from the Australian Government and Brisbane City Council, Logan City Council, Ipswich City Council, City of Gold Coast, and Moreton Bay Regional Council.

Get in touch

Healthy Land and Water is dedicated to the care of our unique and beautiful land, waterways and biodiversity.

  • Address: Level 19, 160 Ann Street Brisbane QLD 4000
  • PO Box: 13204, George Street Brisbane QLD 4003
  • Phone: (07) 3177 9100
  • Fax: (07) 3177 9190
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