Almost 30,000 plastic lids wash up on remote Great Barrier Reef beach!

For the third year running Tangaroa Blue Foundation volunteers, have been joined by a team from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Lockhart River State School students and teachers, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Rangers for a clean-up along iconic Chilli Beach, in remote Cape York.

This 6.7km section of coastline in the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park is for the moment marine debris free, with over 3.4 tonnes of mainly plastic pollution being removed by volunteers over the 5 day event.

Not only was the 3.4 tonnes removed from the beach, but data was collected for inclusion in the Australian Marine Debris Database, which is used to track debris to the source, and to create strategies that prevent rubbish and waste from entering the environment in the first place.

Data collected from the 2014 Chilli Beach Clean Up included 4,000 thongs, 2,285 plastic drink bottles, 2,174 pens and other plastic stationary, 1,203 toothbrushes, and 1,074 shampoo and other personal care bottles. But the most unbelievable statistic was that of the amount of plastic bottletops and lids – a mammoth 27,406 were collected in total, that’s on average 4 bottletops per metre of beach!

So where is all this rubbish coming from? Well over 90% is coming from other areas of Australia and international sources, travelling on ocean currents and with the assistance of the wind, they are blown up along many beaches of remote Far North Queensland. Cargo ships and fishing industry also contribute to the problem, with many international items such as water bottles and food packaging still with their labels attached and obviously not having spent too long in the water.

Over the last two years the backlog of debris that has been accumulating on this section of beach has now been removed. So this year’s effort focused on the rubbish that has just washed up over the last 12 months, resulting in a decrease in the overall weight of debris collected this year.

With the assistance of the Cook Shire, more than 60% of the rubbish collected was diverted from the local landfill and transported to Brisbane for recycling. And the 27,000+ plastic bottletops will by upcycled by local artists.

Another first for this year, is Tangaroa Blue Foundation’s first educational sign on marine debris being installed, highlighting the impacts and sources of what washes up on Chilli Beach, and inviting visitors and locals to the area to become involved in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative.

Support for this event was provided through the Queensland Government’s Everyone’s Environment Grant, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, The Cook Shire, Great Barrier Marine Park Authority, Cape York NRM and Malone’s Butcher Port Douglas. A huge thank you goes to all the volunteers who participated for their hard and dedicated work.

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