Cocos Island Project to Reduce Marine debris

Media Release

FN047/2017

31 March 2017

Joint release with:

Stephen Dawson

Minister for Environment
Minister for Disability
Services Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council

  • 50,000 pieces of debris on Cocos (Keeling) Island beaches collected
  • Debris then inspected to determine what the source is
  • Five-year Marine Debris Project is funded by the Australian Government

Beach clean-ups on Cocos (Keeling) Island have taken on a forensic flavour with volunteers analysing almost two tonnes of marine debris to find out where it is coming from and work towards stopping it at the source.

The five-year Marine Debris Project aims to help the 600-person Cocos (Keeling) Islands' community—2750 kilometres northwest of Perth— to address the tonnes of marine debris that float onto and the Island with the tides.

Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash said the Project would have long-term benefits for the community by helping protect public health and reducing the environmental impact from sea debris.

“I aim to build the kinds of communities our children and grandchildren want to either stay in or come back to, and projects like this help make Australia's Islands a better place,” Minister Nash said.

“It's great to see community coming together for such a worthy cause, and I commend them on their work to stop the flow of marine debris at the source.” 

Over seven days, 14 volunteers, five project leaders and local community members picked up, counted, analysed and recorded more than 50,000 individual items of debris on four remote islands—West Island, Home Island, Direction Island and South Island.

The haul included food wrappers, tooth brushes, personal care bottles (shampoo, cosmetics packaging), medicine bottles, medical waste (syringes, saline drip set up, a vial of blood, drug containers) and many small glass energy drink bottles.

Other items included:

  • 4323 plastic lids from bottles;
  • 3729 rubber thongs;
  • 2999 plastic drink bottles;
  • 1450 cigarette lighters; and
  • 254 bags of rubbish and a substantial amount of rope and discarded fishing nets

Western Australian Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the project was also aiming to influence manufacturers and industry to promote alternative packaging, which reduces the amount of marine debris washing ashore.

“This includes collaborating with industry and governments to influence change on a larger scale,” he said.

Mr Dawson said the debris was suspected of washing ashore from a number of sources, including waste dumped at sea by boats and ships and waste dumped directly into the ocean by industries and individuals.

“By looking ocean currents and analysing the details of particular products—including labelling and the density of collected plastic water bottles—it is possible to identify particular brands and potentially track the source of debris,” he said.

On Christmas Island this week a smaller Marine Debris Project team including local school students undertook two collections of more than 12,200 items to analyse their origin.

The project is funded by the Australian Government's Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and supported by the Western Australian Department of Environmental Regulation (DER), the Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and not-for-profit organisation Tangaroa Blue Foundation.

For more information or to volunteer for the project, visit www.der.wa.gov.au/mdp