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Australia Day Warning on Plastic Bottles: Just one can spread around the world

Media Release 25 January 2008 

As Australians head out to celebrate Australia Day this weekend in parks, on beaches and foreshores Clean Up Australia is urging people to be careful not to leave behind their plastic bottles as just one can literally spread around the world.

According to the founder of the Beachcombers' and Oceanographers' International Association, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a one-litre plastic water or soft drink bottle could break down into enough fragments to be washed up on every kilometre of beach in the world.

Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan AO says Dr Ebbesmeyer's findings are disturbing and highlight just how damaging plastic is to the marine environment.

"Plastic never disappears, it just becomes harder to see with the naked eye. When plastic is exposed to sunlight it begins to break down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, which can have a deadly effect on our marine environment.

"It is so widespread that it is being swallowed by marine life and is entering the food chain."

Mr Kiernan says people need to be aware it isn't just plastic bottles tossed overboard that end up spread across the ocean.

"Thanks to gravity and stormwater, if you drop a plastic bottle anywhere from Bondi Beach to Mount Kosciuszko, it will eventually make its way into the ocean.

"This long weekend, I hope everyone has a great time celebrating Australia Day, and makes sure they don't leave any rubbish, particularly plastic bottles and bags, behind."

There is an estimated 13,000 pieces of plastic on every square kilometre of the ocean surface, most of which has been washed out to sea from dry land. Plastic kills more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year.

Mr Kiernan says as well as responsibly disposing of their rubbish - preferably in recycling bins - Australians can help by simply reducing the number of plastic bottles they buy.

"Using refillable water and drink bottles is a simple and effective way to help save the environment, not to mention save yourself money.

Mr Kiernan says this year's Clean Up Australia Day will be a chance for the community to address the problem of plastic bottle rubbish.

Registrations are now open for Clean Up Australia Day (Sunday 2nd March), Business Clean Up Day (Tuesday 26th February) and Schools Clean Up Day (Friday 29th February). Anyone can register a site or volunteer by visiting www.cleanup.org.au or by calling 1800 CUA DAY (1800 282 329)


For further information: Alana Mew 0423 377 567