Rising rivers of plastic polluting Port Phillip Bay - Ocean Protect Skip to content

Rising rivers of plastic polluting Port Phillip Bay

The amount of plastic pollution flowing through the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers is rising at an alarming rate, with an estimated 2.5 billion pieces of litter spilling into Port Phillip Bay in the past year.

A state government-funded litter study showed that microplastics – tiny fragments of the material – accounted for most of the rubbish collected in the waterways.

Port Phillip EcoCentre has conducted 113 litter trawls over a five-year period to estimate the total amount of rubbish on the surface of each river.

Staff and volunteers at the centre cleaned, counted and measured the litter before it was sent to a laboratory at RMIT for chemical analysis. RMIT also oversaw statistics gathered for the study.

The university has processed at least 53,600 samples gathered by the group.

The study revealed that the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers were carrying an estimated combined total of 2.5 billion pieces of rubbish, including plastics, polystyrene fragments and cigarette butts in the year to February 2020.

It showed that litter in the Yarra more than doubled between 2018 and 2019. In the year to January 2019 an estimated 1.4 billion pieces of litter flowed into Port Phillip Bay, but the problem has since grown dramatically worse.

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