WASTE NOT: Leading research into marine debris is Southern Cross University Associate Professor Steve Smith.
WASTE NOT: Leading research into marine debris is Southern Cross University Associate Professor Steve Smith.

A message in a bottle

CHINA, South Korea and Spain - these are some of the origins of hundreds of plastic bottles found washed up on our beaches.

To find out how and why this waste is arriving on our shores, Southern Cross University's Associate Professor Steve Smith and National Marine Science Centre student Kelsey Banister are undergoing new research which will document bottles between Coffs Harbour and the Tweed.

For more than a decade, marine scientists have suggested 80% of marine debris comes from land and 20% from activities at sea.

But initial research undertaken north of Solitary Islands Marine Park has found more than 50% of bottles were from overseas.

"The focus until now has been on land waste rather than waste from offshore - so our aim is to investigate if that is valid," Prof Smith said.

Once bottles are found, the team uses the barcode, language and use-by date to ascertain their origin and approximate age.

"It appears some of the recent ones haven't come very far which could suggest that waste is being disposed from vessels and floating to shore," Prof Smith said.

While work will be undertaken by the project team, Prof Smith encouraged the public to become involved over the coming months to strengthen the research.

"A lot of people walk on beaches regularly so if they see plastic bottles - they can easily register for the project and take part in the research," he said.

"We hope that the study will both raise awareness about the impacts of marine debris and provide information to help manage the problem locally, regionally and globally."

To register, simply visit http://www.liveideas.org.au



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