Merri Creek Management Committee (MCMC) teamed up with RMIT University and Melbourne Water on 31 May to present a litter education session for 18 lucky Year 3 Antonine College students. RMIT Scientist, Dr Kavitha Chinathamby, helped the students release plastic bottles fitted with GPS 'trackers'. The GPS-enabled plastic bottles simulate litter that comes into Merri Creek, usually from street stormwater drains, and is subsequently washed into Port Phillip Bay. Each GPS-enabled device sends signals pinpointing its location at defined time intervals so the litter voyages can be tracked. You can track the Merri Creek bottles and other bottles in waterways around Melbourne here. All plastic bottles will be rounded up and removed at the end of the project.
After the bottles were released, MCMC's Waterwatch Coordinator, Julia Cirillo, helped the students to clean up the accumulated litter on the banks of Merri Creek. The main litter found was small pieces of hard and soft plastics. These types of plastics are detrimental to local birds, fish and other aquatic animals. If they ingest these as food items, it can cause them to starve to death.
It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and great observation skills of the students as they removed the plastic items. Three students commented:
"I can’t believe how much rubbish we just found. I’m so happy we’re cleaning up all this trash otherwise lots of animals will die [because of us]."
"I really liked it. It was very interesting to know what happens when litter goes in the creek and I really loved how we got to throw bottles into the creek and track them down to see where they ended."
"The excursion was so fun and it was nice to do lots of activities that showed us different ways to clean the environment."
Thank you to students and teachers from Antonine College for their participation and enthusiasm. MCMC was able to be involved in this event through a sate government grant to the Friends of Merri Creek for a Rapid Response Litter Cleanups project. The broader RMIT project, which is releasing GPS tracker bottles through numerous waterways around Melbourne, is described here. It is funded through the same State Government grants program from the Port Phillip Bay Fund.