Environmental message in a bottle

wasteWhere does marine debris come from? The answer for much of it may be far, far away.

For more than a decade, marine scientists have suggested 80 per cent of marine debris comes from land and 20 per cent from activities at sea.

However, observations from the NSW North Coast suggest a steady increase in debris from the sea, with plastic bottles from across the world washing up on beaches from Coffs Harbour to Tweed Heads.

Southern Cross University’s Associate Professor Steve Smith and student Kelsey Banister, of the National Marine Science Centre, are leading an investigation into the source of marine debris on the NSW north coast.

For the research, the team is seeking help from beach goers to gather washed-up plastic drink bottles.

“We are aiming to collect at least 1000 bottles from beaches between Coffs Harbour and the Tweed River,” Professor Smith said.

“We hope that the study will both raise awareness about the impacts of marine debris and provide information to help manage the problem locally, regionally and globally.

“We are particularly interested in samples from remote beaches.”

Ms Banister has examined the first set of samples – 80 bottles from a remote beach at the northern end of the Solitary Islands Marine Park – and the results were astounding.

“At least 50 per cent of the bottles are from overseas sources and we identified seven countries of origin for these bottles – China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Spain and the Netherlands,” Ms Bannister said.

Just how the bottles ended up on our beaches is one of the research questions being addressed by the study.

Getting involved with the project, which is being run in conjunction with the University’s Live Ideas initiative, is simple.

Just register your details with the Plastic Pollution on North Coast Beaches project and the team will get in touch.

Photo: Kelsey Banister with some of the bottles recovered for plastic pollution research.

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