Close to 80 enthusiastic people turned up on a gorgeous sunny Autumn morning (on 17 March) to remove unsightly litter from the banks of the Merri Creek in East Brunswick and Northcote. After a safety induction, donning of gloves and a statement of purpose from the community organiser, Tara Patwardhan-Kalra, the volunteers got down to business. Because there was such a great turn-out of volunteers, a large area of the creek’s bank, the nearby Merri Park wetlands, and surrounding stormwater drains, were literally picked clean of litter! In four hours over 40 large bags of rubbish were collected, and bundled up neatly ready for collection by Council. About a quarter of this could have been recycled.
Rapid response to litter project
The majority of rubbish was plastic bags in various stages of break down. Plastic and other litter is extremely prevalent on the Merri Creek, particularly after rainfall events. As well as the ecological damage litter causes, its on the amenity of the creek is enormous. To help tackle the problem, Friends of Merri Creek succesfully applied for a three-year state government grant to develop a system for “Rapid response to litter in the Merri after high rainfall events”. Merri Creek Management Committee has been commissioned by the Friends to roll out the project.
Say No to plastic bags
Plastic bags are item no. 2 on the Marine Top Ten list of items found in today’s oceans. If these plastic bags and other small plastic items had not been removed from the Merri Creek by our motivated volunteers, many of them would have found their way into the Yarra River and then Port Phillip Bay. Once in the ocean, these plastic items cause a multitude of damage. Plastic tends to float and bobbing on the surface can lead items to be mistaken for other marine life. Plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by leatherback turtles and consumed. A 2009 study found that out of 408 leatherback sea turtle autopsy reports, plastic was found in a third of those cases. Marine life can also get tangled in nets, cords, and other plastic debris, which hinders their ability to swim and in some cases, can be a severe choking hazard. Once in the water, the plastic waste is gathered up by one of the five major subtropical gyres into enormous stretches of “plastic soup.”