Litter…dropped on land, kills at sea

Lara Shannon's picture

Keep Australia Beautiful Week kicks off today with a graphic reminder of the catastrophic consequences that litter can have on Australia’s waterways and wildlife.

According to figures released today in the annual Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index, the total amount of litter by item and by volume recorded a slight drop per 1000sqm overall nationally.

However, we need to keep in mind that the reduction in some litter items may in fact be attributed to the exceptional wet conditions experienced in many areas of Australia simply washing away the lighter litter items from the streets, into nearby storm water drains and waterways where they can’t be recorded. 

This not only moves the problem elsewhere, but also poses a greater environmental risk in terms of marine pollution and injuring or killing marine mammals and other wildlife.

Each year, millions of items such as cigarette butts, plastic and glass beverage containers, food packaging and fishing gear make their way into our oceans and rivers through storm water drains, or by being left on beaches and river banks.

Marine litter poses a vast and growing threat to the marine and coastal environment with at least 77 species of marine wildlife found in Australian waters being affected.  Sea turtles, seabirds, dolphins and sea lions particularly vulnerable.

Recent research also shows the catastrophic effect our consumption of plastic and inappropriate disposal is having on our oceans.   A team of environmentalists have just returned from a sailing voyage in the Pacific Ocean to document the North Pacific Gyre, otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Twice the size of France and growing exponentially, this sea of rubbish is threatening to become one of the great ecological disasters of our time.

The voyage travelled 2995 miles from Honolulu to Vancouver across some of the remotest ocean on the planet where the research team completed 38 trawl samples of the ocean’s surface. The presence of plastic in every trawl sample is shocking and heartbreaking. Even in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometres from the nearest land mass, they were finding plastic debris including a toothbrush, pen caps, bottle caps and even a toy plastic gorilla. There is so much rubbish out there, it's clear we need to act now.

We can all make a difference on this issue by taking responsibility for our rubbish by reducing, reusing, recycling and cleaning up our coastline. Even just one piece of rubbish contributes to the pollution of our oceans and threatens our wildlife.   


Lara Shannon is a passionate and engaging environmental campaigner, TV presenter and media consultant. Lara is a trained journalist and completed a Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) at the University of South Australia, before starting her career as a radio talk back producer and print journalist. In her early twenties, Lara decided she wanted to ‘save the world’ and since then has been the media spokeswoman for a number of well known environmental organisations and positive lifestyle products.   Lara has also been the regular environment presenter for children’s TV shows including Saturday Disney, Cheez TV and Totally Wild. Lara runs her own specialist PR and social marketing consultancy and has been responsible for the annual Keep Australia Beautiful Week campaign for the past seven years, whilst also looking after the national publicity for the organisation.