Did you know there are approximately 18,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square metre of ocean? And despite its remote location, even Cape York’s beaches can’t escape the rubbish.
Australia has some of the world’s best beaches and they are a major drawcard for tourists. However, even though many of them are extremely remote they are still affected by the world’s ocean debris.
According to Tangaroa Blue Foundation, a not-for-profit environmental organisation that co-ordinates beach clean-ups throughout Australia, Far North Queensland (with the iconic Great Barrier Reef along it’s coastline) is one of the worst areas for beach debris in Australia.
Remote Cape York is a marine debris hotspot that keeps Tangaroa Blue busy all year round.
Founder Heidi Taylor says because of the ocean’s currents, rubbish gets washed up on Cape York’s beaches from South East Asia, the South Pacific, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
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With the help of dedicated volunteers, community groups, recreational groups, local and indigenous rangers and school groups, they clean collect rubbish along the coastline and within adjoining creeks, estuaries and rivers.
Once the rubbish has been collected they also sort it, process it, count it and collate the information in an Australian Marine Debris Initiative database.
“We have been documenting our debris collections from day one when we started Tangaroa Blue,” Heidi says. “Data is the evidence that helps us keep track of where most of the debris is located, where it is coming from and exactly what debris is washing up on the beaches.”
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]Identifying debris[/headline]
The variety of debris washed up on beaches differs by location but the worst offender is nearly always fragmented plastic.
Beaches close to cities and urban areas tend to get beer bottles, cigarette butts, aluminium cans, straws and plastic.
Remote regional areas on the other hand, tend to get a lot of debris carried in by the tide from other areas as well as cargo ships, recreational boats and fisherman. Consequently they see a lot of fishing nets, ropes and oil drums.
Heidi says its always surprising to find what washes up on shore and says one of the strangest items she found was a set of false teeth.
None of this is good news for local marine wildlife that mistakes these plastic fragments and various rubbish items as food and then die as a result of ingesting it.
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]top 10 list of offenders[/headline]
- Plastic fragments
- Plastic lids
- Cigarette butts
- Insulation foam
- Plastic bottles
- Food packaging
- Fragments of plastic bags
- Broken glass
- Aluminium cans
- Fishing line
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Tangaroa Blue sends anything that can be recycled to Lakeland in Cape York where they are compacted and then packaged into one tonne silo bags.
From there they are sent to Parley for the Oceans in the US, an environmental organisation who are very vocal in trying to stop plastics and debris ending up in our ocean. They recycle the items found into new products.
The rubbish that can’t be recycled goes to landfill sites, although some is sent to artists who send requests for particular marine debris to be used in their art projects.
[headline size=”small” align=”left”]every little helps[/headline]
Ocean debris is a global issue but Tangaroa Blue suggests everyone can help by making a few small changes to our every day lives that will reduce the amount of debris ending up on our beaches:
- Don’t buy bottled water – fill up you own reusable water bottles
- Buy your own refillable thermos coffee cup
- Use reusable shopping bags at the supermarket
- Carry a bag that can be folded down and carried with you when you shop at shopping centres
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- 633 species of wildlife are impacted by marine debris
- If you would like to find out more about Tangaroa Blue or volunteer to help at a beach clean up go to www.tangaroablue.org