Litter in waterways is not just visual pollution. International studies have found fragments of plastic frequently mistaken for food by diving and surface-skimming seabirds.
The Melbourne Parks & Waterways ‘Tagged Litter Report’ (1993) estimated that four to five million items of floatable litter entered Melbourne’s waterways each year.
The study found heavily vegetated stream banks tended to trap and prevent the tagged items from entering the Bay. Of 408 recovered items released in the Yarra system, only 13 were found on beaches in the Bay. On the other hand, tagged items released into concrete-lined waterways such as the Elwood Canal rapidly entered the Bay. More than 90% of recovered items released in south eastern catchment drains were found in the Bay.
As a result of the study, a range of strategies to reduce litter in waterways were introduced, including litter traps and booms, and education programs to raise public awareness. These achieved some success, but a walk on any beach in the Bay will prove we’ve still got a long way to go.
Bay litter surveys (collection and categorisation) are a great way to bring your community group or corporate team together and make the Bay safe for wildlife. Data gathered will inform local litter reduction strategies. Don’t just believe it… give it a go!