Image: the debris collected today on a walk along a bayside beach
I'm fortunate enough to live close to a bayside beach and having moved here recently, I'm creating new habits including walking, a daily nature fix and … collecting rubbish.
It's hard not to notice the rubbish that washes up daily along our shorelines, and I've noticed the rubbish here is different to other beaches I've walked along. I've collected cans, cups, napkins, fast-food wrappers on well visited beaches, that appear to reflect that day's activities, while other beaches show washed up nets and older items that may have been in the bay for many years.
And this new beach, what’s its focus? ... small bits of plastic, bottle tops, edges of wrappers, all old, disintegrating and embedding themselves into the environment, marine life… and us.
It’s not surprising that a suburban beach will have this problem, when scientists have shown that microplastics have polluted even the world's most remote oceans.
In Victoria, specialists have shown marine plastic debris into the Bay comes from land based sources. In 2021 it was estimated that more than 2.5 billion pieces of plastic pollution make it to Port Phillip Bay annually, via the surface waters of the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers.
Audits around Port Phillip Bay catchments found retail sites generated the most litter, followed in order by industrial sites, public buildings, sportsgrounds, parks and residential areas. Of the 54,000 items reordered, 74% were plastic.
I’m encouraged by citizen science projects tracking microplastics on Australian coastlines to help us understand the problem, the long-term effects from sealife ingesting micro plastics, and how much of these harmful chemicals will find their way into humans. These projects engage communities in science, map pollution hotspots, and are putting microplastic pollution on the map via AUSMAP.
We know there’s a problem, so I encourage everyone to create a new habit. On your next walk, take a disposable bag, gloves and pick up rubbish (to be disposed of appropriately) and think about becoming an AUSMAP participant.
And as you get that extra bit of exercise also remember to bend your knees!
on a related matter..
Ever wondered how a plastic bottle gets from your nearest beach to one of the giant trash gyres? A cool interactive site can show you a path, using the help of a rubber duck to navigate. Drop the digital duck anywhere in the ocean, and Adrift.org.au will model the movement of plastic from that spot over ten years.
Plastic pellets are getting into the food chain via the oceans and this is an international problem crossing ocean boundaries. Follow the rubber duck and see how plastic travels across the sea.