Shell, CSIRO, Earthwatch join forces against plastic debris

ILLEGAL dumping of plastic bottles and other waste may be the key factor behind the growing problem of marine debris on Australian beaches and in the oceans surrounding the island continent.

A three-year study of marine debris by the CSIRO, Earthwatch and gas giant Shell with the help of thousands of students and scientists around the country has quantified the issue for the first time on a national scale.

It found that some three-quarter of all rubbish on Australian beaches and coastlines were plastic, and most of it was from local sources, although some was from overseas.

The research report revealed the density of plastic items and fragments varied, but rising in many areas, with some regions only having "a few thousand pieces of plastic" per square kilometre.

But, other areas, particularly concentrated around capital and major cities on the coast, were found to have more than 40,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre.

Maps released as part of the report highlighted that the Queensland coastline, between south of Bundaberg and north of Rockhampton, had particularly high levels of marine debris.

The findings also revealed the endangered oceanic leatherback turtle and vulnerable green turtles, both found along Queensland's coast, were "at the greatest risk of both lethal and sub-lethal effects from ingested marine debris". - APN NEWSDESK