Yarra River Floods and Plastic

I have been up close and personal with plastic pollution the last few weeks. The Yarra River which flows through downtown Melbourne, Australia, has been flooding into Wilson Reserve, a nature preserve in East Ivanhoe.

Flooded track in Wilson Reserve

No houses are allowed to be constructed within the 100-year flood line on the flood plain, so there has not been any destruction of human habitat. Most of the native animals are adapted to flooding, as are the River Redgum trees. The frogs are singing to potential mates, and ducks abound with their families.

Chestnut Teal duck family

But the animals are not adapted to plastic strips, containers, and straws that now litter the preserve.

Pacific black duck with flood debris

We’ve been spending two hours of painstaking tramping through the bush almost every day collecting plastic garbage.

This bag is overflowing underneath with small bits. On top chunks of foam plastic (from food boxes) debris, and a reward of a $20 bill, Australian plastic.

The strips of light-weight plastic are hard to differentiate from leaves. The shining glints help the eye spot them. Sometimes touch without a glove is needed for positive identification.

Strings and strips pose potential death threats, twisted around the small legs of native birds.

Research says that plastic fragments are found in 86% of sea turtle, 44% of seabirds and 43% of all marine mammals. I can see land mammals ingesting this stuff too. Plus it is in us. We need to act to end plastic pollution.

The local paper says that Australia has joined an international push for a global agreement to end plastic pollution by 2040. It would include binding targets to phase out plastic waste products by 2025. But the USA has been pushing for voluntary targets. We need more than voluntary targets, we need real change with binding targets.

In the meantime we can all limit our use of plastics. We don’t need plastic straws, or disposable plastic water bottles. I try to use as little plastic as possible, and I always remember my grocery bag, because I have one rolled up in my purse.

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