Environmental groups welcome 70% reduction in plastic bags polluting Sydney Harbor

An environmental cleanup project has announced that most of the plastic bags have been removed from the waters of Sydney Harbour.

Seabin operates 34 bins around the port that filter water to collect microplastics and large plastics.

The company says the port collects up to 13,000 plastic items each day.

Seabin CEO Pete Seglinski told ABC Radio Sydney that the impact has been dramatic since last June when businesses were banned from distributing lightweight plastic bags.

“We have seen a 70% reduction in plastic shopping bags floating in Sydney Harbor,” Mr Cheglinski said.

“Only 12 months after the plastic bag ban came into force, this is a pretty staggering result in a very positive way.”

Garbage cans suck up water and debris, then collect plastic and filter the water. ()

Since conducting an experiment with the city of Sydney in July 2020, the group has filtered 15 billion liters of water and collected more than 100 tons of garbage from the port.

Despite progress, Cheglinski said the biggest waste problem is microplastics, which account for 44 percent of the contents collected in trash cans.

“To address the lack of accountability and governance for plastic pollution in Sydney Harbor, we need a better understanding of what’s at stake,” Cheglinski said.

Pete Seglinski is happy that plastic pollution has decreased. ()

“I feel very positive… Together we can turn the tide on the plastic pollution problem, especially in Sydney Harbor.”

The state government will also ban single-use plastic straws, cutlery and cotton swabs in November 2022.

Microplastics need to be addressed at the source

According to Scott Wilson, part of the Australian Microplastics Assessment Project (AMAP), which measures the problem, there are up to 5,000 microplastics per square meter of Sydney Harbor’s shoreline.

Dr Wilson said there has been no improvement in the amount of microplastics in the harbor since AMAP began counting fibers, pellets and foam on shores in 2018.

Microplastics make up over 40 percent of the trash captured at Sydney Seabins. ()

“Most of what we’re finding in ports comes from urban catchments and is washed away by rainwater,” he said.

He believes government regulations on plastics and industry designing better products are key to reducing microplastics in the marine environment.

“It is our role as citizens and members of our communities to choose better products, but ultimately it is industry that designs better products, and it is the industry that regulates better products. The government,” said Dr. Wilson.

“We need to reduce the amount of that product.”

brand criminal

Candy wrappers keep coming out of the marine waste collection bins.

Cheglinski said Cadbury-branded trash appears most frequently in trash bins, accounting for 32% of branded trash.

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Cadbury is followed by Mars Wrigley packaging at 13.8%, followed by Perfetti Van Mele (with brands such as Chupa Chups and Mentos), Nestle and Coca-Cola at 11.9%, 10.6% and 7.8% respectively.

Cheglinski was intrigued to find that packs of cheese-flavored Smith Chips were more likely to sell than the original flavored ones.

He said the trash wasn’t necessarily the result of intentional littering, but could have been blown out of the bin by the wind or fallen from an overfilled bin.

Water quality problem due to heavy rain

Martina Doblin of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science said water quality in the harbor had generally improved, but increased rainfall increased the risk of climate change.

Heavy rains create debris and adversely affect water quality in ports.

Heavy rainfall causes many pollutants to be introduced into the harbor water.()

“Rainwater finds its way into urban waterways, carrying grease from roads, dust and debris left in gutters, organics from garden manure, pesticides, and vehicle emissions,” Dr. Doblin said.

“Untreated water may be released into the port due to increased pressure in the system.”

Dr. Doblin said upgrading the aging stormwater and wastewater infrastructure would help prevent deterioration of the port’s water quality.

The institute is also working on a project to build a living seawall in the harbor to repopulate the mussel and oyster populations, which will filter the water in the harbor and improve its quality.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-06-07/most-plastic-bags-gone-from-sydney-harbour-since-ban-seabin-says/102446138 Environmental groups welcome 70% reduction in plastic bags polluting Sydney Harbor

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