Protecting turtles from marine debris strewn across the Northern Territory coastline and recycling plastic pollution is the focus of a new University of Adelaide-led project.
Toys for Turtles is an education program, designed in collaboration with the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation, that will engage with schools and the Northeast Arnhem Land community to find solutions for the plastic pollution problem heavily impacting the shoreline.
It will also establish two recycling hubs at schools that will help process plastics and turn it into items for the community, such as skateboards, frisbees and sporting equipment.
“Marine debris is wreaking havoc on environments and wildlife in northern Australia, including the culturally significant turtle,” said Dr Nina Wootton, Marine Researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Gillanders Aquatic Ecology Lab in the School of Biological Sciences.
“It is an incredibly serious issue that is threatening the natural ecosystem.
“This project will use the plastic debris that we collect from beach clean-ups to create items that will be of use in the community, such as skateboards and frisbees, using special moulds and plastic recycling machinery.
“There will also be ongoing monitoring of sites, the development of cultural teaching models around plastics and community surveys on marine debris.”
The University of Adelaide-led project has received almost $300,000 in funding from the Australian Government as part of the Ghost Nets Innovative Solutions Grants program .
“This project will use the plastic debris that we collect from beach clean-ups to create items that will be of use in the community, such as skateboards and frisbees, using special moulds and plastic recycling machinery.”Dr Nina Wootton, Marine Researcher at the University of Adelaide’s Gillanders Aquatic Ecology Lab in the School of Biological Sciences
The plastics that are collected will be taken to two recycling hubs that will be established − one at Nhulunbuy, and the other that can be transported to regional areas.
Set up in schools, the recycling hubs are expected to process more than five kilograms of plastic per hour, increasing the capacity for the community to deal with plastics.
“This project will assist in removing and recording plastic in the marine environment, while creating long-lasting recycling potential for schools and the community through plastic recycling hubs,” said Professor Bronwyn Gillanders from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute.
“We will work alongside the Dhimurru community in their scheduled beach cleans to survey what is collected and can additionally test plastics for their origins using the facilities at the University.
“Dhimurru’s land and sea country is negatively impacted by marine debris, hence an education program is pertinent to grow awareness and reduce the impact of marine debris.”
The University of Adelaide’s Professor Melissa Nursey-Bray, from School of Social Sciences and Environment Institute, added: “Disposing of marine debris is an ongoing challenge. This project combats this by turning plastic into a resource and opportunity.”
The project will begin in June and is expected to be completed in mid-2025.
Lead image: Hawksbill turtle. Image: David Harasti, Parks Australia
Dr Nina Wootton, Marine Researcher, Gillanders Aquatic Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, the University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)488 748 250. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crispin Savage, Manager, Media and News, the University of Adelaide. Mobile: +61 (0)481 912 465. Email: email@example.com
Originally published on the University’s Newsroom.