Published Sept. 18, 2014 by Steve Toloken in PlasticNews.com
Image By: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Denise Hardesty collects marine debris as part of the study for the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
About 75 percent of the trash found in the waters off Australia’s
beaches is plastic, with most of that coming from local sources rather
than sea-borne debris drifting in, according to a Sept. 15 study from
scientists and the social investment arm of energy company Shell
The study, part of a three-year Australian government research project,
said that about 40 percent of seabird species now ingest plastic, but
predicated that could increase to 95 percent of species by 2050, given
rising levels of plastic production.
“We found about three-quarters of the rubbish along the coast is
plastic,’’ said Denise Hardesty, study director for the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national
science agency. “Most is from Australian sources, not the high-seas,
with debris concentrated near cities.”
The study said debris can trap animals or they can mistake it for food and eat it.
The 364-page analysis estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 turtles
in the Gulf of Carpentaria, off Australia’s northern coast, have been
killed after getting ensnared in derelict fishing nets.
It said the Tasman Sea south of Australia is a “global hotspot” for seabird impacts
‘’We also carried out a global risk analysis of seabirds and marine
debris ingestion for nearly 200 species and found that 43 percent of
seabirds and 65 percent of individuals within a species have plastic in
their gut,” the study said,
“Globally, nearly half of all seabird species are likely to ingest
debris, eating everything from balloons to glow sticks, industrial
plastic pellets, rubber, foam and string,” Hardesty said, in a press
The study said that with rising levels of plastic production, more seabird species will ingest plastic.
“Our analyses predict that plastics ingestion in seabirds may reach 95
percent of all species by 2050, given the steady increase of plastics
production,” it said.
“Approximately one third of marine turtles around the world have likely
ingested debris, and this has increased since plastic production began
in the 1950s,” Hardesty said. “By garnering the information needed to
identify sources and hotspots of debris, we can better develop effective
The CSIRO team said it surveyed sites about every 100 kilometers along
Australia’s coastline. Besides Shell and CSIRO, South Melbourne-based
Earthwatch Australia also participated in the work.
personal responsibility is part of the solution, and she advocated
things like re-usable shopping bags and disposing of waste properly.
But she also said that government programs like container deposits, which industry often opposes, can help reduce marine litter.
“It’s not practical to clean up the ocean’s garbage patches, but we can
stop rubbish from getting in there in the first place,” she said. “We
know that incentives such as container deposit schemes are effective,
and we can also choose products that don’t use plastic microbeads.”
The study said it’s the world’s largest collection of information about
marine debris. It estimated that the concentration of plastic in
Australian waters ranged from a few thousand pieces per square kilometer
to more than 40,000 pieces.
The Australian results mirror those of a July study by several
environmental groups in the Philippines, which found that 60 percent of
the waste in Manila Bay was plastic, with plastic bags making up 23
percent of the total, news reports said.
That study was done as part of a bay cleanup for International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 3.