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Lower Gulf Indigenous Recycling Centre Kicks Off

Lower Gulf Indigenous Recycling Centre Kicks Off

Lower Gulf Indigenous Recycling Centre Kicks Off

In August 2022, Plastic Collective delivered the final stage of an Indigenous Recycling Centre in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

In response to the largest die-back of mangroves witnessed in the Lower Gulf region in 2016, a project focusing on mangrove health and plastic pollution was developed in a tripartite partnership of Plastic Collective (PC), Earthwatch Australia (EW) and the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC), funded by an environmental grant from Coca-Cola Australia Foundation.

After enduring two years of COVID lockdown delays, the plastics recycling program was finally set up in Burketown and Normanton. PC was responsible for training over 20 Indigenous Land and Environment Rangers in the identification and sorting of marine debris and household plastics, and processing to produce saleable materials.

EW had trained the Rangers in mangrove and saltmarsh identification, and five rounds of surveys have been undertaken as part of the project, which included marine debris transects and health monitoring of the mangroves

Collecting marine debris and ghost gear has long been part of the work the Land and Environment Rangers do in caring for country and protecting vital marine life habitats and turtle nesting grounds.

Cleanups in the local rivers and beaches regularly bring in over five tonnes of materials a year, however the disposal of this material in local landfills was a serious concern for CLCAC.

The flatness of the extensive southern gulf region meant that in the wet season, materials in dump sites could easily flow back into the river systems. The Rangers were keen to rescue the landfill volume for their communities and assist in keeping the waterways clean.

The process of sorting, granulating and baling materials turned 12 large bulk bags into a few bales and shred bags of condensed saleable materials. These can then be sold at a premium price to manufacturers, such as WAW Handplanes, as certified ocean plastics.

The main operational centre was set up in Burketown, where an existing warehouse was turned into a recycling centre to process the materials, eliminating the need to send over 70% of recovered marine debris and fishing nets to landfill.

Normanton Rangers sorting collected marine debris onsite

Sorting area at Normanton HQ 

Rubber thong pile

Ranger depot with bulk bags of materials collected during mangrove surveys

Burketown Rangers preparing collected materials and sorting into categories

Normanton Rangers sorted the materials into the categories, after which it was sent to Burketown for further processing at the facility.

During the five days of setup and training, just under half a tonne of marine debris and ghost gear were sorted into the following categories;

  • hSUP (hard single use)
  • sSUP (soft single use)
  • GG (Ghost gear)
  • nSUP (Non single use)

From the nSUP, the following categories were also added:

  • Shoes
  • Foam
  • Reusables
  • Waste – unrecyclables

 

Burketown Rangers baling nets

Burketown Rangers granulating marine debris and nets

From the 457.4 kg of materials processed from the two sites 60% (270.9kg) of all marine debris and ghost gear was recycled into bales or grind for sale, 21% (97.3 kg) separated for reusable/ repurposing items and 19% (89.2 kg) remaining for landfill.

20 Rangers learnt about the global problem with plastics in the oceans, material knowledge and operating procedures using 3-phase granulators and balers, as well as record keeping, ethical and environmental compliance and enterprise essentials.

How are Marine Megafauna Impacted by Plastic Pollution?

How are Marine Megafauna Impacted by Plastic Pollution?

Photograph by Jordi Chias sourced from National Geographic.

“Marine litter has become a pervasive pollution problem affecting all of the world’s seas. It is widely documented that marine litter, in particular plastic, has negative impacts on marine wildlife, primarily due to ingestion and entanglement. Most cetacean species (more than 66%) are adversely affected by this pollution.” (Fossi et al, 2018)

MARINE SPECIES ENTANGLEMENT & INGESTION OF PLASTICS

One of the latest 2020 studies from esteemed Kuhn and Frankeker underscores the threat marine debris is posing to marine life. According to the study, marine debris affected 914 species through entanglement (354 species) and/or ingestion (701 species). 

Around 700 marine species are known to ingest pieces of plastic such as plastic bags and single-use plastics throughout the food chain. This includes half of the world’s cetaceans (such as whales and dolphins), all of its sea turtles and a third of its seabirds. This research review, entitled ‘Quantitative overview of marine debris ingested by marine megafauna’ found ingested plastics occurred in 701 species (see table 1. below). 

Table 1. Overview of plastic ingestion/ entanglement in main animal taxa (Kuhn & Frankeker, 2020). 

Ingestion of plastics was recorded in the digestive system of 180 of the 409 species of seabird (44%), 69 of the 123 species of marine mammals (56%), and 7 out of 7 species of marine turtles (100%).  

MARINE DEBRIS IS NOT A NEW CHALLENGE

The ingestion and entanglement of marine debris by marine species is not a new challenge. First-hand experience of marine animals’ fatal plastic ingestion was witnessed by zoologist Louise Hardman in 1993 in Coffs Harbour, Australia. At the time, Hardman was working as a Project Officer for the newly established Solitary Islands Marine Reserve by the Pacific ocean.  

There, after rescuing a small, green turtle from the banks of Wooli River and taking it to the local marine conservation center (Pet Porpoise Pool), the turtle slowly died over 3 days (see Figure 1).  

Figure 1: Louise Hardman running a Turtle Research project and Greg Pickering participating in the Pet Porpoise Pool tagging marine turtles in SIMR (Coffs Advocate, May, 1993).

Hardman dissected the turtle and discovered 15 different types of plastic fragments in its gastrointestinal tract (see Figure 2). It is likely the plastic particles were caught in the seagrass, which the turtle was eating. Death was caused by a blocked intestinal system, multiple ulcerations of the stomach wall and prolonged starvation. For decades this story has repeated as marine organisms across the food chain and their marine ecosystems are increasingly infiltered by ocean plastic.

Figure 2: Hec Goodall, Curator of PPP, holds the marine debris found inside the small, green turtle from Wooli River that caused its death (Coffs Advocate, 24th June, 1993). 

Determined to solve this problem in the marine environment, Louise started an environmental business in 2016 known as Plastic Collective. Exactly 25 years to the day, on 24th June, 2017, Louise won the Coffs Coast Startup Grand Prize with her invention of the Shruder – a mobile recycling unit to enable remote communities to transform tonnes of plastic trash and waste into resources, which prevents marine pollution. Hardman believes that only by properly monetizing waste plastic can marine fauna be saved. The impact on marine life has already affected human health too, such as how the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the North Pacific Ocean has many tonnes of chemical plastic waste. 

 

Figure 3. Plastic Collective’s logo was dedicated to the green turtle (Chelonia Mydas) which died from the ingestion of plastic waste in 1993 at the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve. 

Figures 4/5. Newspaper articles on Louise Hardman and Plastic Collective after receiving the Coffs Coast Startup award. 

PLASTIC DEBRIS’ IMPACT ON WHALES

 Kuhn & Frankeker’s 2020 research examined plastic ingestion in 8 of the 14 Baleen whale species (Mysticeti), which are all from the family group, Balaenopteridae  or ‘Rorquals’ (figure 4.) This family includes Humpbacks, Blue, minke, Bryde’s, Fin and Sei Whales. 

 

Figure 4: Baleen (Mysticeti) whale species – taxonomy

The research examined various marine megafauna (see Table 2 below) including carnivores (Polar bears, seals, otters), Baleen whales, Toothed whales and Sirenia (e.g., dugongs).  

Of the 86 species of whales (‘all Cetaceans’), just under half were represented in the research (Kuhn & Frankeker, 2020). A total of 5,098 individual whales were studied. From this sample size, 486 whales were found with plastic pollution ingestion, representing 9.53% frequency of occurrence (%FO).  

For the 14 species of Baleen whales, 8 included the Balaenopteridae whales (Humpbacks, Blue, etc.). Ninety-six individual whales were studied and 16 of these were found to have ingested plastics, including Humpback whales. The frequency of occurrence (%FO) in this group (16.67%) was the highest average for all of the Cetaceans, compared with Toothed whales at 9.4%. 

Table 2: Frequency of occurrence of plastic ingestion for marine mammals in taxa (Kuhn & Frankeker, 2020).  

Although some extreme cases of Sperm whales ingesting many large plastic products exist from recent studies (Jacobsen et al., 2010;De Stephanis et al., 2013;Unger et al.,2016), only Baleen whales show a higher frequency of occurrence, Sp-%FO (16.67%).  This may be due to their feeding habits of ingesting large volumes of water to feed on small krill, which may also contain floating and suspended plastic from the ocean currents.

It is well documented that ingested plastics pollutants do not break down in the gastrointestinal tract of fauna, rather they can cause intestinal blockages, ulceration of the stomach lining and starvation (Roman et al, 2020). This is seen in marine turtles and other marine megafauna around the world’s oceans.

Below are the common and specific names of individual megafauna found with plastic ingestion/entanglement for Seals, Baleen and Toothed whales.

Table 3. Species identified with plastic ingestion/entanglement (Kuhn & Frankeker, 2020).

Table 4. See list below for Humpback whales and for data on ingestion and entanglement for Balaenopteridae and others. 

CENTRE FOR SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS

Plastic Collective and Miimi Aboriginal Corporation are combining forces for the health of the ocean, to protect and enhance marine life. By establishing a waste plastic resource recovery facility in Bowraville for the region. Marine debris and kerbside plastic material will be recovered and processed into valuable products. This will eliminate material from going to landfill and then escaping as runoff into waterways and the ocean. 

BACKGROUND ON MIIMI & GAAGAL

The Gumbaynggirr nation covers a vast area estimated at 6,000 km2 on the Mid North NSW Coast, from Tabbimoble Yamba – Clarence River to Ngambaa – Stuarts Point, SWR- Macleay to Guyra and to Armidale.   

Gumbaynggir people are often referred to as the ‘Saltwater People’, as their totem is ‘Gaagal’ – ‘Ocean’ in Gumbaynggir language. Their cultural responsibility and passion for protecting and caring for the health of the ocean is embedded deeply and across many generations. 

Miimi (Mothers) Aboriginal Corporation was started by Aunt Ruth Walker, along with founding jinda’s (sisters) Rita and Florence Ballangarry, in the late 1980’s. It was at this time that they realised there was no support for Aboriginal women and families in Bowraville [Bawrruung]. With foresight, passion and energy they encouraged the community to realise their dream of developing programs and bringing services into the community for women and their families. Miimi is now run by Aunty Ruth’s daughter Patricia Walker. 

In late 2019, Patricia Walker reached out to Plastic Collective to request a waste plastics recovery program for their region. Over the next few months, Plastic Collective and Miimi secured the old Bowraville Buttery site and started planning the establishment of a visionary ‘Centre for Sustainable Solutions’. The Centre provides local youth and families with new employment opportunities under the umbrella of Caring for Country – Sea and Land. 

As this project grew, other stakeholders and local partnerships developed. Nowadays, this includes  links to Bellwood Educational program, the newly formed Nambucca River Land and the Sea Rangers program. These partnerships are expanding the opportunities for the local indigenous community to become leaders in protecting waterways and oceans. 

Together Plastic Collective and Miimi Aboriginal Corporation all share a unified vision of ‘Healthy Oceans’.

REFERENCES

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

*Besseling E, Foekema EM, Van Franeker JA, Leopold MF, Kühn S, Bravo Rebolledo EL, Heße E, Mielke L, IJzer J, Kamminga P (2015) Microplastic in a macro filter feeder: Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae. Marine Pollution Bulletin 95: 248-252 doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.04.007

Bogomolni AL, Pugliares KR, Sharp SM, Patchett K, Harry CT, LaRocque JM, Touhey KM, Moore MJ (2010) Mortality trends of stranded marine mammals on Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts, USA, 2000 to 2006. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 88: 143-155 doi https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02146

Capella Alzueta J, Florez-Gonzalez L, Fernandez PF (2001) Mortality and anthropogenic harassment of humpback whales along the Pacific coast of Colombia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 47: 547-553

Ceccarelli DM (2009) Impacts of plastic debris on Australian marine wildlife, Consulting CR, Report for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, pp 83

Greenland JA, Limpus CJ (2007) Marine wildlife stranding and mortality database annual report 2007. Il. Cetacean and Pinniped, Environmental Protection Agency, pp 26

*Jacobsen JK, Massey L, Gulland F (2010) Fatal ingestion of floating net debris by two sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). Marine Pollution Bulletin 60: 765-767 doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2010.03.008

Heyning JE, Lewis TD (1990) Entanglements of baleen whales in fishing gear off Southern California, 40th Report of the international Whaling Commission, Cambridge, pp 427-431

*Lusher AL, Hernandez-Milian G, Berrow S, Rogan E, O’Connor I (2017) Incidence of marine debris in cetaceans stranded and bycaught in Ireland: Recent findings and a review of historical knowledge. Environmental Pollution 323: 467-476 doi https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2017.09.070

Moore E, Lyday S, Roletto J, Litle K, Parrish JK, Nevins H, Harvey J, Mortenson J, Greig D, Piazza M (2009) Entanglements of marine mammals and seabirds in central California and the north-west coast of the United States 2001–2005. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1045-1051 doi https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.02.006

Sternfeld M (2006) 2005 Alaska Region Marine Mammal Stranding Summary. National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Region, Protected Resources, Juneau, Alaska, pp 4

*Thiel M, Bravo M, Hinojosa IA, Luna G, Miranda L, Núñez P, Pacheco AS, Vásquez N (2011) Anthropogenic litter in the SE Pacific: an overview of the problem and possible solutions. RGCI-Revista de Gestão Costeira Integrada 11: 115-134

*Thiel M, Luna-Jorquera G, Álvarez-Varas R, Gallardo C, Hinojosa IA, Luna N, Miranda-Urbina D, Morales N, Ory N, Pacheco AS (2018) Impacts of marine plastic pollution from continental coasts to subtropical gyres—fish, seabirds, and other vertebrates in the SE Pacific. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 1-16 doi http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2018.00238

*Waring G, Pace R, Quintal J, Fairfield C, Maze-Foley K (2004) US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments–2003. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE 182: 287

[*Note: More references are available for other marine megafauna, if interested.]

Our purpose at Plastic Collective is to show people how to find value in plastics as a resource, to understand which plastics can be recycled or recovered, and provide solutions to eliminate those which can’t be, thus preventing disposal of plastics. This will create sustainable circular economies which no longer rely on the ‘take-make-dispose’ attitude.

For more information, please contact us today.

New Technology to Identify Plastics is Helping to Recycle Ghost Nets

New Technology to Identify Plastics is Helping to Recycle Ghost Nets

Imagine shooting infrared beams at a material to work out what type of plastic material it is made from – that is what a ‘Spectro-photo-scope’ does for plastic! This Near Infrared Device (NIR) is also called BASF trinamix.

One of the problems with recycling discarded plastics is knowing what type of plastic they are made from. To be able to recycle plastics, manufacturers need to know the Melt Flow Index (MFI), or the rate at which the plastic will flow into a mould. The MFI values are different for every type of plastic.

For plastic materials which have no ‘Recycling Identification Code’ (RIC) – which tells you the number and type of material, it can be hard to tell the plastics apart.

Fig 1. Recycling Identification Code (RIC), HDPE #2

Working in remote regions, Plastic Collective’s programs often come across different types and forms of plastic, including Ghost Gear (nets, fishing line, traps and ropes) that have washed up in remote areas, including our Gulf of Carpentaria project site.

Plastic Collective was fortunate enough to be invited to test the new device, in a select trial with BASF. BASF is a leading global chemical company. With great enthusiasm we accepted the challenge and then set out to identify and categorise over 30 different samples of Ghost Gear collected in the southern region of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Plastic Collective is doing this in collaboration with CLCAC Land and Environment Rangers at Normanton.

Figure 2: Scanning samples of Ghost Gear retrieved from the Gulf of Carpentaria, North Queensland, April, 2021.

Ghost Gear or Abandoned or Discarded Fishing Gear (ADFG), is particularly problematic for wildlife, reefs, and other natural habitats. Entangled nets can often be kilometres long, weigh tonnes and slowly captures and drowns many megafauna and other animals- hence the term ‘ghost’ – as they hide under the surface and kill unsuspecting marine life, such as turtles, dolphins, birds and whales.

Figure 3: Entangled discarded fishing gear made of mixed materials, found in the Southern Gulf region. 

If we can place a value on discarded fishing nets, by understanding what they are made from, then maybe the owners of the nets will bring them back to land, to receive an economic incentive. Currently, discarded fishing nets are burnt on the beaches or taken to landfill where they get burnt there. They have no value and cause serious water and air pollution. 

From the samples, we discovered many of the nets were made from HDPE (high density polyethylene), one of the highest and most recyclable plastics we use. HDPE is found in milk bottles, some lids, yoghurt containers, shampoo and cosmetic bottles. It is easy to recycle and can fetch anywhere from $500/kg – $50,000/kg – depending on where it comes from (the story) and who is buying it.

Figure 4: HDPE Trawl Net

Other types of nets and ropes included PET, PP and LDPE. While fishing lines are often much thinner and stronger, compared to the thick ropes and nets. These typically are made from nylon, or polyamide (PA), as nylon has the strongest of all plastics 

Figure 5: Strands of Polyamide (nylon 6) fishing line

Although we can recognise nylon fishing line due to its strength, without a device like the trinamiX we are not able to tell if it is nylon 6, or nylon 6,6. Which sound similar, but again, have different MFI values. The NIR was able to identify these two apart. 

Figure 6: The BASF trinamiX separates nylons PA6 from PA6,6, such as this fishing line.

After a very satisfying few weeks pointing the trinamiX device at all things plastic, and testing its capabilities, we are pleased to say it was quite accurate if used correctly, and enabled us to identify materials that would have otherwise not been able to.  We are grateful for the opportunity to test the trinamiX and are very much looking forward to having one of these in our remote resource recovery toolbox for future projects.

Get more information about trinamiX by visiting this webpage.

Email us to learn about education & training programs in material knowledge

3 + 4 =

Land Management and Resource Recovery in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Land Management and Resource Recovery in the Gulf of Carpentaria

Indigenous Rangers Caring for County

Wetlands Not Wastelands – Southern Gulf Kickoff

In April, 2021 Plastic Collective (PC) and Earthwatch Australia (EW) made their way to northern Queensland to meet with Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC) in Normanton and Burketown, in the southern region of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Louise Hardman (founder/CEO- PC), Jock McKenzie (Senior Scientist – EW) and Fiona Sutton (acting CEO- EW) travelled to two remote townships to work with the CLCAC Gangalidda & Garawa and Normanton Rangers. Together, they conducted the first training programs in Mangrove / Saltmarsh monitoring and plastics education.

‘Wetlands, not Wastelands’ was launched through the Coca-cola (Aust) Foundation flagship environmental partnership in early 2020 to deliver a waste plastic and a wetland management program in collaboration with Aboriginal communities in the Gulf of Carpentaria; CLCAC has been in operation since 1984. 

The program aims to provide training, skills and equipment to the Ranger programs to identify different threats to the Southern Gulf’s mangroves and salt marsh areas, including human-induced behaviours including marine debris and plastic pollution, and provide plastic recycling solutions for the region.

LAND & SEA RANGERS PROGRAM
The CLCAC membership is drawn from nine Aboriginal language groups located in the Southern Gulf. The Aboriginal management of the land and waters of the Gulf has occurred for millennia since time immemorial.  The CLCAC Land & Environment Program began to take form in 2006 as ‘an expression of native title holder rights and responsibilities through culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable environmental management practices’ through establishing Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). (CLCAC,2019. ‘1984-2019: Celebrating 35 Years, Standing Strong & Leading the Way’).

In 2007, CLCAC established a Land and Environment Ranger Program to extend its role in the native title. By 2019, the Rangers program was employing 21 full-time Indigenous Rangers in the two ranger units of Burketown and Normanton.  CLCAC also provides mentorship and support to the Wellesley Islands Rangers, a team of four based on Mornington Island.

Current activities the Land and Sea Rangers undertake include;

1. Feral animal and weed control
2. Wetland rehabilitation
3. Fire management
4. Turtle and Dugong Management
5. Biodiversity and Vulnerable species monitoring
6. Visitor compliance and fisheries joint-patrols
7. Erosion management and water quality monitoring
8. Protection and Management of cultural sites; and
9. TEK transfer through school visits and the Junior Ranger Program

CLCAC’s Land and Environment Rangers carry out important work, caring for Country and Sea. They regularly check their local fishing sites, remove any litter or marine debris, and conduct feral animal and invasive weed management.  Their passion for protecting and nurturing the natural environment is outstanding and a real credit to the vision of CLCAC Traditional Owners (TO’s) in both Normanton, Burketown and the Wellesley Islands.

NORMANTON & BURKETOWN DEMOGRAPHICS

The Southern Gulf of Carpentaria covers an extensive area of remote, flat and often inaccessible regions, scattered with small townships, homesteads and numerous cattle stations. The primary industries in this area are;

1. Tourism (for fishing, sightseeing, wildlife tours & cultural engagement)

2. Recreational Fishing (Barramundi, salmon, etc.)

3. Commercial Fishing (Prawn trawling, barramundi farms, shark fisheries)

4. Agriculture (Livestock – before covid there was Live export industry of cattle)

While Normanton and Karumba (Carpentaria Shire) have a registered population of 2,200 local residents (over 743 Indigenous), tourism in the dry season between May – November attracts many travellers, particularly for the fishing season. Similarly, Burketown has a small registered population of 300 within the Burke Shire and 600 tourists/ year; however, the total population is estimated at over 3,000, with more living on Country away from the townships.

Earth Watch Training: Salt Marsh & Mangrove Threats

After a warm welcome from the Rangers, Jock Mackenzie (EW), began planning to deliver the mangrove/ saltmarsh research training, and marine litter transects to establish an Ecological Mangroves/Saltmarsh monitoring and management plan.

The Rangers were involved in 3 days of mangrove/saltmarsh land and sea surveys to assess various habitat types at each location, with Jock delivering specialised training in identification of threats. Selected ‘transect’ sites of mangroves and salt marsh habitats involved gathering essential data and collecting marine debris (fugitive plastics), which would be sorted back at the Rangers’ bases. Using these fugitive material samples, Louise conducted a Materials (Mod. 2) workshop for Rangers to learn about plastic types and material science.

River and beach marine litter transects, Norman River, Gulf of Carpentaria. (L-R) Normanton Rangers Kelean Logan, Lawrence George, and Linton George

Plastic Collective Training: Global problems, Plastic Materials & Identification
Back at the Rangers’ base, Louise then conducted her education and training modules to introduce the global impacts and problems caused by plastic leakage. An introduction to plastic pollution enabled the Rangers to identify causes of leakage and human behaviours that lead to adverse environmental and social impacts. The Rangers identified many of the plastic leakage issues. Their work involves cleaning up fishing camps, turtle nesting areas and coastal habitats to care for Country and sea.

 

Training in Plastic Problem & Global issues, Normanton

In addition to the fugitive (marine debris) collections from the transects, Rangers also assisted in the collection of Kerbside materials in and around the local township sites, including assessing Council Landfills and meeting with Containers for Change operators.

Hands-on training in the identifying of fugitive (environmental) and Kerbside materials was conducted, which provides the Rangers with the knowledge to continue their collections and capture essential data in preparation for the installing recovery and recycling equipment which will turn waste into saleable resources.

Dividing the materials into different categories allowed the Rangers to learn about the material science of Polymers, including Ghost Gear, hard plastics, soft plastics and thermoset plastics.

 

Normanton Rangers sorting of Kerbside materials. (L-R) Makiya Logan, Kelean Logan, Juwan Fraser, Hayden Tyrrell, Paul Logan, Fiona Sutton (Earthwatch), Raymond Dalton, Louise Hardman (Plastic Collective)

PLASTIC RECOVERY & RECYCLING PROGRAM – Next Steps

We designed an R&R program that the PC will prepare and install over the next three months from the materials assessment of kerbside and fugitive collection channels. Establishing Plastic Resource Recovery & Recycling Stations at Burketown and Normanton will maximise the recovery of plastic kerbside and fugitive materials, and reduce the damaging effect of plastics leaking into the environment and ending in landfill.

The PC System will include hardware, software and additional training programs. As part of the PC System, we aim to ensure the CLCAC Rangers program aligns with the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard and its social and environmental compliance procedures. Turning a problem into a solution will enable the communities to generate income, support other communities in the recovery of waste materials.

Additional Challenges

The Wetlands not Wastelands project aimed to identify issues in the Southern Gulf region around waste plastic impacts, which we discovered additional problems that also need to be addressed. For the fugitive plastics, ‘Ghost Gear’ was also identified as a significant problem in the entire Gulf region. Kerbside materials that ended up in local landfill sites were seen by all locals as a significant problem, particularly in the wet season when the flooded downs cause high levels of plastic leakage from these sites.

‘Ghost Gear ‘is the general term for Abandoned fishing nets, ropes, lines and other discarded materials, which do extreme damage to wildlife and habitats. Josh Mackenzie, through Mangrove Watch, has researched the entire coastline of the Gulf of Carpentaria in increments of 100m. By doing this, they have been able to identify over 700+ ghostnets along the coastline that are currently still caught in the tidal zone.

CLCAC and other Aboriginal communities around the Gulf have extensive experience with Ghost Nets and abandoned fishing gear. Ghost nets and ropes can be hard to identify, as without labels and identification tools, the exact composition is challenging to determine, which makes it challenging to recycle them. PC is now investigating solutions with partners to address the identification of resin types and potential collaboration to recycle discarded materials in preference to burning them onsite.

Sorting Ghost Gear (Nets, rope and line) at Normanton. (L-R) Hayden Tyrrell, Raymond Dalton, Kelean Logan

Landfills

An additional problem identified at all sites were the landfills. The Rangers, Council and locals alike are seeking solutions to reduce waste and remediate their landfill sites. Often materials are burnt on-site to reduce the volume of waste, animal’s forage on food wrapped in plastics, and annual floods in the delta regions cause significant leakage of plastics into the environment, as the Gulf is a large natural floodplain with few hills.

PC has set a task to reduce and eliminate landfill sites, replacing them with Resource Recovery enterprises, as all the materials sent to a landfill, if separated into its groups – biological and technical nutrients, can be safely and economically recovered for the benefit of the community, country and sea.

Small remote communities typically are left to themselves to deal with their local landfills, 1. Burketown Landfill is affected by annual wet season floods, 2. Doomadgee landfill is located close to the small township causing air pollution, water and soil pollution.

Stay tuned to watch our progress in one of the most beautiful and naturally abundant regions in Australia – the Southern Gulf!

Global Good Collective becomes Plastic Neutral

Global Good Collective becomes Plastic Neutral

Global Good Collective becomes Plastic Neutral

Plastic Collective is proud to announce that Global Good Collective has become certified Plastic Neutral with their plastic packaging for their new product range – Bamboo toiletry paper.  

To become Plastic Neutral, Global Good Collective has joined a growing number of companies using Plastic Credits who purchase plastic credits equivalent to the weight of their plastic packaging footprint. Plastic Credits directy fund the collection of plastic across Plastic Collective’s portfolio of community recycling programs throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Global Good Collective was founded up by a group of Australian and Kiwi entrepreneurs who wanted sustainable toilet paper available on supermarket shelves. 

Traditional toilet paper sees millions and millions of trees that are 15 years or older cut down to be used in a flush. Recycled toilet paper is eco-friendly, but it’s just not comfortable to use. Bamboo is the perfect alternative. 

“The end product is super soft and strong and the bamboo we use is the fastest growing plant on earth. It can grow up to 90cm/day so when we trim it, 12 months later the same plant has fully regrown and is ready to be trimmed again.” Global Good Collective Director Peter van Deek says.

Prior to Global Good Collective purchasing Plastic Credit, they conducted a rigorous process to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic used within their business.  However, they still need to package the toilet paper in plastic to avoid moisture penetration. Given their strong sustainability positioning, Global Good Collective felt it essential to address the use of plastic in their packaging.

“We knew that we needed to be authentic in creating a more sustainable product and that meant bringing in the best partners we could find. That led us to Plastic Collective who are the best at what they do. Their commitment to removing plastic and empowering remote communities was totally aligned to what we wanted our brand to stand for. They have been fantastic to work with.” says Peter van Beek.

Global Good Collective are now successfully selling their product exclusively in Woolworths using Plastic Neutral branding.

Woolworths shared our vision to make sustainability accessible in store – their commitment to the cause is absolutely apparent at every level so they have been amazing to work with.”
–  Peter van Beek

To find out more about Plastic Collective’s Plastic Neutral program contact programs@plasticcollective.co

Citizen Science: Water and the Law of Least Resistance – ADEX – Asia Dive Expo

Citizen Science: Water and the Law of Least Resistance – ADEX – Asia Dive Expo

Citizen Science: Water and the Law of Least Resistance – ADEX – Asia Dive Expo

Aly Khalifa (Plastic Collective’s Innovation Director)  and Louise Hardman join ADEX – Asia Dive Expo to discuss the philosophy of water and the law of least resistance. How to survive and thrive in the blue ocean world and maintain your passion for a better healthier planet !

Plastic Collective working with Coca Cola & Earthwatch to tackle marine pollution

Plastic Collective working with Coca Cola & Earthwatch to tackle marine pollution

Plastic Collective working with Coca Cola & Earthwatch to tackle marine pollution

The Plastic Collective is proud to be working with CLCAC Land & Environment Rangers from the isolated northern communities of Burketown and Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria to help develop a marine pollution management plan and a report card to conserve this region’s precious habitat. 

The Plastic Collective will provide capacity-building training with resource recovery equipment, the Shruder Recycling Stations, where the communities will be able to transform plastic waste into practical resources such as building materials and other valuable products, as part of the first stage of establishing micro-enterprises using a circular economy model.

It is all part of the ‘Wetlands Not Wastelands” project jointly funded by the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation (CCAF) and Earthwatch Australia, the first of its kind addressing marine pollution and wetland management in the Lower Gulf of Carpentaria. 

The $600,000 project working with the Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (CLCAC) will train 20 CLCAC Land & Environment Rangers to help deliver the ‘Wetlands not Wastelands’ program over the next three years. 

The CEO of the Plastic Collective, Louise Hardman, said the collective was very grateful to be working with the dedicated Aboriginal Rangers from the Southern Gulf region and Earthwatch, who have been working together caring for country in these remote and beautiful regions. 

“The lack of waste infrastructure in places such as Queensland’s Southern Gulf makes plastic pollution a serious problem for these small communities, and we are excited to be able to deliver a practical solution to them,” Louise said.

The Plastic Collective system is a containerised off-grid unit which includes hardware equipment for recycling plastics, software applications for monitoring, provenance and compliance, as well as an ethical marketplace for a complete circular economy.  Enabling this system is a practical training program to empower the Aboriginal Rangers to improve their environment and create an economical model. 

“We want to thank the generous support from Coca-cola Australia Foundation, as we are looking forward to delivering this pioneering program in resource recovery alongside Earthwatch and CLCAC Land and Environment Rangers,” Louise said.

The State of the Ocean in the Age of Covid-19 – ADEX Pixel Virtual Expo

The State of the Ocean in the Age of Covid-19 – ADEX Pixel Virtual Expo

The State of the Ocean in the Age of Covid-19 – ADEX Pixel Virtual Expo

ADEX (Asian Dive Expo) is the biggest Dive conference in the world in Singapore. For the second year the theme is Ocean plastic pollution. Due to Covid-19 they are hosting the first virtual conference with panel speakers. 

Louise Hardman from Plastic Collective joins the panel for the discussion on The State of the Ocean in the Age of Covid-19

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