Micro-plastics out in clear view

In Geraldton we love our white sandy beaches, but did you know that in every handful of glossy sand, you may also be scooping up tiny pieces of plastic?

Through a new study, Benchmarking the Accumulation of Micro-Plastics off South-Western Australia Project, by the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA)’s Kate Born and University of Western Australia’s Dr Harriet Paterson, more than a hundred pieces of plastic have been found in a small sand survey recently conducted in Geraldton.

Dr Harriet Paterson talking to students about the effects microplastics have on the environment.
Dr Harriet Paterson talking to students about the effects microplastics have on the environment.

Students at Geraldton’s Batavia Coast Maritime Institute (BCMI) participated in the study this week, which was funded and supported by NACC as part of Science Week.

The BCMI students were asked to collect samples of sand from Geraldton’s Separation Point beach, to determine whether microplastics lie within and after the survey, an elution tube was used to separate the microplastics from 1.28kgs of sand collected at the beach revealing more than 165 pieces of micro-plastic were found in the sample.

Dr Paterson said both microfibers from common clothing materials and larger plastic pieces also contributed to the plastics found on our beaches.

“Microplastics do not only consist of broken down bits from large pieces of plastic (macroplastic), but from polyester and lycra material from our clothes,” she said.

“When we take sand from the beaches in towns who have red school uniforms, we will see more red fibres in our samples.”

Dr Paterson said CCWA planned to analyse samples collected from 200 beaches across WA’s coastline (Geraldton to Esperance) to identify where and how microplastics have entered the coastal environment.

NACC Coastal & Marine Project Officer, Vanessa McGuiness said reducing simple everyday plastic items would make a big difference.

“With just a small change of lifestyle choices we can prevent microplastics ending up on our beaches, in our ocean and even in our food!”

“Reducing single-use plastic items such takeaway coffee cups, plastic spoons, straws – recycling bottles and cleaning up your local beach can help remove plastics from the environment more than you think!”

Many local community members across the Northern Agricultural Region (NAR) volunteer their time to join beach clean-up days and marine debris surveys – however there is still a hidden secret beneath the sand!

Students from Jurien Bay Primary School were also paid a visit from the project team, which was supported by a NACC’s Quick Step grant, providing an opportunity for the students to learn about the impacts of micro-plastics in the environment.

This project is supported by funding from the WA Government’s State Natural Resource Management Program.

If you would like more information on the Coastal and Marine Program and grants available to fund projects such as these please contact Vanessa McGuiness on 9938 0108 or vanessa.mcguiness@nacc.com.au.

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