Litter and Flows

The wide use of single-use plastics, improper waste management practices, inadequate wastewater treatment, and littering have led to large volumes of plastic pollution entering the Yarra and Port Phillip Bay. Litter enters our waterways through wind transport, surface runoff and via stormwater drains. There is increasing public concern about large amounts of litter in the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay. This is illustrated in the ‘State of the Bays, 2016’ and ‘State of the Yarra, 2018’, developed by the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability. Litter has been reported to:

Be unattractive
Disturb physical habitats
Degrade water quality
Attract pests and vermin
Cause animal illness, injury and death Reduce amenity values
Reduce tourism
Be costly to clean

Up until recently the main focus of research on plastic pollution has been the marine environment. Thus, there is a relative lack of knowledge on plastic waste occurrence in river water and along riverbanks. Data on their presence, sources, and fate are still scarce. The same is true for their chemical burden and ecological/physiological effects. This ‘Litter and Flows’ project was designed to gain a deeper understanding of the pathway of litter into the Yarra and subsequently into Port Phillip Bay. Further, the project aimed to quantify the volume and describe the composition of litter in the Yarra River. Quantitative and qualitative litter data was obtained through:

1). Bandalong litter trap audits

2). Microplastic trawls in the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers

3). Community/School clean-ups along the Yarra

Litter data was then used in the Yarra Riverkeeper Education Program to raise awareness about the impact of litter on our waterways and to keep the community well informed in how to take practical action to reduce waste. Litter is a problem that affects everyone – and everyone can play a part in making change. An integrated approach to waterway pollution using preventative measures such as education campaigns, containment (e.g. litter traps) and remedial (e.g. river/beach clean-ups) measures are necessary to reduce litter impacts.

Release of project report coming soon