24 tonnes of debris cleared from Great Barrier Reef

24 tonnes of marine debris including plastics, old cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been removed from the Great Barrier Reef.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the Federal Government is investing $1.9 billion to protect the Reef and fund a range of activities through the Environment Restoration Fund and the National Waste Policy to combat litter at its source.

“The Federal Government is committed to tackling the problem of waste, from our towns and cities to the sea,” she said.

“This is just one of the many ways we are working to address the problem of rubbish in our waterways.”

The Federal Government partnered with Tangaroa Blue Foundation to deliver the ReefClean project last year to remove marine debris from the beaches of the Great Barrier Reef.

A report released on Tuesday 5 May, stated that ReefClean, which is funded by the Federal Government’s Reef Trust, ran 49 community clean-up activities and regularly monitored 33 beaches for marine debris during its first full year.

ReefClean was launched at the end of last year and aims to remove and prevent marine debris along the Great Barrier Reef region through to 2023. 

The five-year $5 million project is delivering clean-up events, site monitoring, workshops and school engagement activities in order to tackle marine rubbish.

A key aspect of ReefClean is counting and recording all debris collected in the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database, allowing the ability to track items back to the source and identify ways to prevent them from being released in future.

CEO of Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Heidi Taylor, said over 4,000 volunteers have come together to help the foundation gain a better understanding of the scale of the issue and find ways to deal with marine debris.

“Through the launch of this report, we not only showcase the amazing contribution of so many individuals and partners, but the data and numbers provide a clearer picture of the problem, which enables us to make a better decision on how to tackle it,” she said.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef and Member for Leichhardt the Hon Warren Entsch MP said that it was fantastic to see communities across the region coming together to preserve this national icon.

“Removing waste from the Reef is something I am passionate about,” Entsch said.

“The project is a wonderful initiative that is already delivering a number of great outcomes for the Reef, as well as the industries and regional communities that rely on it.”

Tangaroa Blue Foundation is working with several organisations including Conservation Volunteers Australia, Reef Check Australia, Capricornia Catchments, Eco Barge Clean Seas, OceanWatch Australia, South Cape York Catchments, AUSMAP and Think Spatial to deliver this initiative.

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Queensland food recycling service the first of its kind

A business in Queensland’s south-east is operating the first and only Food Organics Garden Organics (FOGO) recycling service in Queensland.

The Queensland Times reported the Ipswich business, known as NuGrow, takes tonnes of food and garden green waste from across the Ipswich City Council green bin network.

Entrepreneur Roy Wilson told the publication the green waste is combined with other waste streams, including grease traps from restaurants to make compost, soil conditions and potting mixes.

He said the community and environment would benefit by improving water quality in catchments, combating climate change and fast-tracking a circular economy.

A circular economy is defined as an industrial economy that promotes greater resource productivity in aiming to reduce waste and avoid pollution through technological and biological cycles.

The company is focused on taking pressure off landfills and traditional waste management infrastructure that are grappling with population growth.

NuGrow recently created a hydraulically applied compost product used by civil contractors, which aims to reduce erosion and sediment loss while promoting vegetation growth alongside newly-constructed highways.

The business partnered with a third generation cattle farming family, near Rockhamption at the Raglan Station, to conduct a scientific field trial comparing NuGrow compost with traditional farming methods.

Raglan Station sits next to the Fitzroy Delta, a Great Barrier Reef catchment.

“The field trial sought to demonstrate whether above average pasture growing results could be achieved using reduced rates of synthetic fertiliser via substitution with a more economical product, such as organic-based compost,” NuGrow said in its publicity material.

Their testing found soil conditioner pasture was more productive, while also leading to a less harmful run-off into the river system.

Mr Wilson told the Queensland Times the results could have major implications for the health of the Great Barrier Reef, “but further education and uptake by the agricultural industry is required”.

NuGrow has four recycling facilities across Queensland, and plans to develop further sites interstate.