Joining forces to clean up our coastal environment

20111025 OCCIThe coming summer months will bring the 'tourist' out in all of us as we head to the local waterways to enjoy the great outdoors and get some relief from the heat. One thing to be aware of, is to collect litter in our natural environment during the tourist season, as plastics are a major threat to our ocean life and every piece less that goes into the ocean is a bonus.

Everyone can do their bit by just picking up every piece of litter that can be seen and on December 3rd branches of the community marine conservation group, Ocean & Coastal Care Initiatives (OCCI) organised a "Marine Debris Survey" at sites in central NSW including Terrigal, Copacabana, Lake Macquarie and Port Stevens.

"As well as collecting rubbish from our lakes and beaches, this clean-up is designed to go that one step further," said event co-ordinator, Linda Roberts. "All of the collected litter was recorded and sent to a national data-base for marine debris, organised by Tangaroa Blue Foundation. The idea is to find out the origin of our local marine litter so that steps can be taken to reduce debris at its source."

So what did make up the marine debris collected along NSW's central coast?

A total of 5km of coastline was cleaned at the 4 clean up sites with the help of 66 volunteers who donated a total of 126 hours to help protect their local marine environment.

Their efforts removed 5327 individual pieces of marine debris with the most common item removed, with a total of 700 being cigarette butts. Coming in second was broken down pieces of plastic bags and other film remnants with a total of 475. The most unusual item found was at Lake Macquarie where three bunches of nylon roses where collected!

Breaking down the data showed that 59.4% of the debris collected was made of plastic with29% of that being plastic packaging including plastic bags, lids and bottletops, plastic drink bottles and film remnants. Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down in the marine environment, forever breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, but forever remaining in the environment. This type of degraded and broken down plastic is also easily confused as food for marine animals and seabirds, potentially killing the animal or bird that eats it.

After plastics the other eight categories showed 10% metal, 8.6% glass, 7.3% paper, 6.9% foam, 2.8% rubber, 1.7% miscellaneous items, 1.4% cloth and 1.3% wood.

OCCI is hoping that the community will get behind this initiative and become proactive in reducing the amount of litter in the region which will also make a significant difference to our oceans.

For more information about OCCI and their projects, contact Linda Roberts on email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mobile: 0404450429.

The Marine Debris Clean Up and Survey is supported by the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority through the Australian Government's Caring for our Country Program.