Tracking Merri-bek's litter to tackle waterway pollution (media release)

21 October 2019

Littering was encouraged on Thursday, as students released five plastic bottles fitted with GPS devices into Merri Creek as part of the Litter Trackers project, funded by the Victorian Government’s Port Phillip Bay Fund.

Litter Trackers is a collaborative project between RMIT University and Melbourne Water and will bring scientists, schools and community groups together to reduce litter and prevent pollution through education.

Around 150 students in years 3, 4 and 5 from Antonine College, Oak Park Primary School and St Raphael’s Primary School attended to participate in a range of waterway environmental education experiences facilitated by Merri Creek Management Committee.

Activities included waterbug and frog discovery, water testing, creek litter clean-ups and hearing about local issues from Merri-bek Mayor Cr Natalie Abboud.

The project aims to better understand the movement of litter in Melbourne’s waterways and raise awareness about the environmental impact of litter on our waterway health and marine and aquatic wildlife.

95% of the litter on Port Phillip Bay beaches comes from suburban streets transported through stormwater drains.

The Merri Creek is a highly urbanised waterway affected by poor quality stormwater run-off, carrying litter and other pollutants from local streets.

Starting out on a journey from the confluence with Edgars Creek in Coburg North, the GPS-tagged litter will be monitored online by students and researchers for four weeks as they make their way downstream towards Port Phillip Bay.

Mayor of Merri-bek, Cr Natalie Abboud, said educating the community about litter source and impact encourages everyone to play their part in reducing what ends up in our local waterways and in bays and beaches.

“Litter, particularly plastic litter, has devastating impacts on marine wildlife causing ingestion, entanglement, suffocation and starvation. Programs like Litter Trackers help us to understand how to nip the problem in the bud - before it reaches our creeks and beaches,” Said Cr Abboud.

“Single use plastic items are used on average for less than 12 minutes before being discarded with the potential for lasting environmental impact. We need to be more conscious of cause and effect.”

Merri-bek Council, Merri Creek Management Committee and Friends of Merri Creek have also been working closely together to reduce litter, investigate its potential sources and educate the community about litter in water catchments.

A report on the litter collected in Merri Creek over the past two years will be presented at the Community Litter Action on the Merri Creek Reduction Plan Workshop on Sunday 24 November, 10am to 2pm at Darebin Parklands, Alphington. Community members are invited to attend to learn more about actions they can take to reduce waterway pollution.