Life’s a beach: finding trends in marine debris across Australia.

A study led by UNSW Science has filtered and analysed 10 years of the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database and created a national map of patterns in marine debris.

The study found that almost half of all debris could be related to land-based sources (litter and dumping on land) and seven per cent to dumping at sea. But 42 per cent of debris could not be related definitively to a source due to the debris breaking down into smaller fragments, which the researchers say highlights the legacy of plastic left in our environment, continually fragmenting into smaller pieces until it is microplastics.

Study co-author and Dean of UNSW Science, Professor Emma Johnston, says very few environmental stresses are able to be measured on a national scale “So the 150,000 citizen scientists who have contributed to this database (AMDI) are doing an amazing favour for Australia. Their passion for the environment gives us one of the few continental scale insights into the global marine problem.”

Study co-author and Tangaroa Blue founder Heidi Tait says “This is the impact of working together and results really highlight that one intervention isn’t going to solve the plastics in our oceans issue, and one sector or one stakeholder group is not going to be able to solve it on their own either. We need to collaborate, and this network is a perfect example of partners who have achieved something quite monumental”

The AMDI Database now has almost 20 million entires, but the UNSW study focused on the 10-year period from when the database registered beach clean-ups at a national level. The UNSW study looked at the national picture, but also grouped its findings according to the six ‘bioregions’ the Australian government uses to manage our oceans and coasts.

The unique aspect of the AMDI Database is that it’s based on a scalable model which identifies the source of the debris. “If you look at what’s currently happening international with discussions around global treaties on plastic, nationally with the National Plastic Plan, and state government plans to address single-use plastics: how we are going to measure those to make sure that those policies are having impact. This is a way to measure the impact of mitigation strategies that are put in place to see whether they’re making a positive impact and reducing marine debris and litter at the source.

Read The Guardian Article here:…/australias-trash-tide…

Find the full findings here, published in the Science of The Total Environment:…/abs/pii/S0048969721058204

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