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Recycling rubbish and marine debris on Cape York

by Jane Thomas, Science Communicator, NESP - Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub

Many Cape York Peninsula (CYP) communities are growing in size, receiving increasing numbers of visitors, and dealing with increasing marine debris washing up on their beaches. A Northern Hub project investigated municipal waste and marine debris management issues in three communities.

Project leader Melissa George from the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance affirms the report findings that whilst each community faces unique local challenges, there are shared issues including under-resourced municipal waste management, problems of compliance with regulatory requirements, increasing retail and wholesale packaging and illegal dumping. Lead research group, the Regional Advisory & Innovation Network (RAIN) Pty Ltd reports that there is presently no coordinated recycling industry presence in the CYP region, and only minimal local recycling takes place.

Despite these challenges, clean-up efforts by the three communities have substantially reduced the amount

of beach debris. More than 700 volunteers in these communities have removed almost half a million tonnes of debris. Ongoing efforts like this significantly cut down on the amount of rubbish on beaches.

“Our research highlighted areas of best practice and innovation, and found that real opportunities exist for a networked regional recycling effort,” concludes project researcher Ellie Bock from RAIN. “This would reduce local waste, generate new or repurposed resources and create new remote jobs and enterprises, through strategic longer term investments to enhance the capacity of remote community rangers and their partners”.

For more information, see the project wrap-up factsheet, the final report or contact project leader Melissa George at 

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