Plastics main source of litter: Clean Up Australia report

litter report

Plastics continue to dominate the Australian litter landscape, marking 81 per cent of all surveyed litter, according to Clean Up Australia’s new Litter Report.

Shedding light on the pressing challenges of plastic pollution across the country, Clean Up Australia is calling for heightened awareness of the need to stem litter production and urging volunteers to join Clean Up Australia Day on 3 March.

Soft plastics increased to 34 per cent, a nine per cent rise from the previous year’s report findings, while hard plastics comprised 28 per cent of all surveyed litter, equating to a four per cent increase for plastics overall.

Cigarette butts represented 16 per cent of litter, an increase from the previous year, and ranked second only to soft plastic pieces in individual items reported by volunteers. Beverage bottles were third. Vapes were collected at 22 per cent of surveyed sites, an increase from 2022 when vapes were found on only 10 per cent of surveyed sites.

Forty-four per cent of reported litter was cleared from waterway sites, followed by parks and bushland at 16 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

“Despite increased survey returns from parks, the higher volume of reported litter at waterway sites reminds us that litter has a strong likelihood of ending up in our precious rivers, creeks, and the ocean,” said Pip Kiernan, Chair of Clean Up Australia.

“A notable rise in soft plastics is concerning and emphasises the need to address soft plastics collection and recycling in Australia and consider ways each of us can reduce single-use plastic wherever we can.”

The report further exposes the challenges of Australia’s plastic waste, with the nation ranking second globally in generating single-use plastic waste per capita, according to the Minderoo Foundation. Each Australian produces about 60 kilograms of plastic waste annually, with 130,000 tonnes of plastic litter entering Australian marine environments yearly.

Kiernan said that despite initiatives in several states to phase out single-use plastics and the success of Container Deposit Schemes (CDS) in Australia, further action is needed on reducing waste and boosting recycling.

“The way we are producing and consuming our resources isn’t sustainable for the planet. Our volunteers across the nation are telling us daily of their frustrations and the need for greater care of the environment. While litter clean-up remains vital, the focus must shift towards reducing waste production and embracing a more circular approach,” she said.

“As Australia continues to navigate these challenges, the commitment of our volunteers remains essential. Not only are they picking up litter, but their efforts also expose challenges with new waste streams as they emerge. Together, we must address the persistent issues outlined in the report and work towards a sustainable, litter-free future.”

The FY23 Litter Report provides a snapshot of Australia’s litter from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. The data collected was thanks to 1,030,395 Australians, who registered 17,139 clean-up sites and collectively contributed about 2,060,790 hours of volunteer effort.

Clean Up Australia Day in 2024 will be held on Sunday 3 March.

To register visit: www.cleanup.org.au

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