Rainbow Beach & Fraser Island Clean Up May 2009

The impacts of marine debris on the Australian marine environment are well documented, with over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals being killed every year by floating plastics, and over 18,000 pieces of plastic being found in every square kilometre of ocean our marine environment resembles a rubbish tip!

Local volunteer Jennifer Parkhurst has joined forces with Tangaroa Blue Foundation and the Rainbow Beach Primary School to address marine debris on Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach with funding assistance through a 2009 Queensland Government Natural Resources Awareness Grant. The grant focused on marine debris on and around two Queensland Heritage Listed Islands: Low Isles off the coast of Port Douglas in Far North Queensland and Fraser Island.

Jennifer Parkhurst, has been conducting daily clean ups along the East coast of Fraser Island for over 7 years, collecting thousands of items of debris which is both washed out of the ocean and being left by visitors to the island. Over two days Jennifer and Heidi from Tangaroa Blue collected 6268 items of rubbish, weighing 107kg from just 175m of the Fraser Island coastline.

The most common items comprised of:

  • 2459 bits of plastic
  • 1331 pieces of polystyrene foam
  • 687 lids & bottle-tops
  • 199 shoes
  • 172 plastic drink bottles
  • 171.5m of rope
  • 149m of fishing line
  • 145 cylume glow sticks
  • 71 bleach & cleaner bottles
  • 69 skincare & lotion bottles and tubes
  • 61 glass drink bottles
  • 48.5m plastic strapping bands
  • 40 toothbrushes
  • 36 cigarette lighters

“I was horrified to see the extent that Fraser Island is impacted by marine debris” Heidi said. “For a Heritage Listed Australian icon, the state of the beaches on Fraser Island is some of the worst that I’ve seen in Australia. I was extremely disappointed to hear that cleaning up this island is left to volunteers with no management strategy for addressing the problem.”

Heidi also visited Rainbow Beach Primary School where students participated in a marine debris presentation and a beach clean up along Rainbow Beach. 55 students from grades Prep, 1, 4 and 5, parents and teachers collected an amazing 1140 items of rubbish from 200m of beach and the grassy park area above the beach, weighing 37kg in just 2 hours.

The most common items were:

  • 308 cigarette butts
  • 106 pieces of polystyrene foam
  • 94 food wrappers
  • 94 pieces of plastic
  • 87 lids & bottle-tops
  • 72 glass drink bottles
  • 56 pieces of broken glass
  • 48 aluminium cans
  • 36 plastic drink bottles
  • 15 plastic bags

The types of debris found along this well-used section of beach shows that debris is predominately being left by beach users with high numbers of drink and food related items. We do recommend that bins are provided by the local council in this area to help mitigate the amount of rubbish being left on this important and beautiful stretch of coastline.

The Fraser Island/Rainbow Beach Marine Debris Project will be a long-term project targeting local marine debris. Anyone in the area that is intereseted in helping please contact us.

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