Seasonal patterns bring plastic rubbish onshore

Plastic pollution washed up on Cheynes Beach (Deanna Corrieri)

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IF you have been to Cheynes Beach recently, you may have noticed an increase in plastic pollution being washed up on shore.

UWA plastics researcher Dr Harriet Paterson said although plastic is ever-present in the ocean, the increase of it on shore is likely due to a seasonal pattern.

“There is a seasonal pattern to the abundance of plastic on the beach,” she said.

“When we get the south westerly storms, in winter it tends to blow plastic in more than in summer, we get easterly winds which tend to move plastic away from the shore.”

More jetsam in winter

From bottle caps, plastic utensils and single-used water bottles, to cans, glass bottles and rope, this seasonal pattern is washing up everything onto the Great Southern coastline.

Marine ecologist Dr Ben Fitzpatrick, who saw the amount of plastic pollution on the beach, said it was alarming to see such an amount of plastic on a fairly isolated beach.

“The plastic came from all sorts of places by the look of it,” he said.

“A lot of it is probably locally generated and comes out from the harbour and stormwater drains, then I’d say there’s a lot of littler from people using the beach.”

“A lot of it is probably locally generated and comes out from the harbour and stormwater drains, then I’d say there’s a lot of litter from people using the beach.

“Then there’s probably a lot of stuff that’s been there for a while and has been uncovered by the erosion that is happening.”

Important whale nursery

Dr Fitzpatrick also said Cheynes Beach was an important nursing ground for Southern Right whales.

“Looking at it, most of it has floated in or was already there and that would be a very small proportion of the amount of plastic that’s in the environment there.”

This month is “Plastic Free July” which focuses on encouraging people around the globe to reduce their single-use plastic intake.  

Dr Paterson said the sight should serve as a wake-up call and urge people to move away from single-use plastic.

“The best thing that people can do is reduce their own usage of plastic and if you do go to the beach why not fill up a bag of plastic and take it away,” she said.

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